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The Hot Zone by Richard Preston


The Hot Zone, is a 1994 New York Times best seller book by Richard Preston. The Book discusses the sudden reappearance of the Ebola virus, which was then limited to Southern Africa, to be discovered in Washington D.C. How America responds to the virus and whether it succeeded in ensuring the safety of its citizens from the Ebola virus outbreak forms the remaining story.

The Book starts off with the first victim of the deadly Ebola virus, back in 1980s. A couple of years later, another young boy falls victim to the virus. With the symptoms of both the victims being highly similar, parallels are drawn between them. United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) is alerted with part of the samples from both the victims. Gene Johnson, one of the USAMRIID’s guys starts investigating into the virus.

Preston discusses the chronology of events that begins in 1984, interspersed with interviews from some of the individuals who were part of the relief team that stopped the outbreak from entering the suburbs of Washington D.C.

Ebola Virus has long been declared a deadly virus with several different strains to its name. Ebola Zaire, Marburg, Ebola Reston are some of the many strains. Ebola Reston was what that broke out in Washington D.C. Thought considered deadly, the virus was declared non fatal towards human tissue. Marburg on the other hand, causes the affected to bleed to his death. The recent case of Marburg was in Southern Africa in 2009. Till today, there hasn’t been a vaccine for any of the Ebola strain.

I found this book scary. Bleeding to one’s death, liver turning into jelly just doesn’t sound very fun. To express how creep- inducing Ebola can be, allow me to quote the author:

“What AIDS Virus can do in ten years, Ebola does that in 7 days”.

If that is not freaky, I don’t know what else is.

Compared to AIDS, which was also known to have passed on from monkeys, Ebola is a hot agent that adapts itself to the environment of the host it inhibits. It works as an anti-coagulant, thus preventing the blood from clotting causing the victim to bleed from any available orifice in his body.

The fear of the victims, the doctors, the research unit, miracle survivor who lived to share his story, all of their interactions has been intricately woven into the account of the outbreak. The account follows that of a diary to give the reader an informal feel to the novel and not be overwhelmed by the jargon.

A movie based on this novel, or more specifically Ebola was released in 1995 titled Outbreak.

Overall, it was an enlightening read to the many hidden secrets of the living species.

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0 08 May, 2010 Books May 8, 2010

About the author

Born in Singapore and currently pursuing Medicine in China, Usha Amudhan has to her credit Indie Rhythms series in GingerChai. She also dabbles with various other genres of writing. Follow @ushaonthego

View all articles by Usha Amudan


  1. Anney

    Usha an excellent review…I love Robin Cook and this looks like something I must read….:)

  2. Pumpkin Longshanks

    Sounds quite similar to the “outbreak” by Robin Cook. About Ebola and a rather large conspiracy.

  3. Liyana

    I remember you telling me that you were quite disturbed by the contents of the book. A book that evokes this much of emotion is definitely a must read. Gonna get my hands on it 🙂

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