The Carelessness of Humans in The Hot Zone by Richard Preston
The Hot Zone is a book written by Richard Preston. Richard Preston is an American writer that has written over a dozen books both fiction and non-fiction. The Hot Zone is a book of non-fiction based off of interviews and extensive research. The primary focus of The Hot Zone is the filoviruses Marburg and Ebola and their origins.
The book is about the filoviruses marburg and ebola and the effect they had on primates in Africa, Asia and North America. The theme of the book is the carelessness of humans. Examples of this are the dirty needles being used in hospitals and the sick monkeys not being examined properly. Page 102 “At the beginning of each day, the nuns at Yambuku.
Hospital would lay out five hypodermic syringes on a table, and they would use them to give shots to patients all day long.” If the nuns were not being so careless they virus may have stayed with the first one to contract it. Page 166 “He had counted twenty-nine deaths out of a shipment of 100 monkeys. That is, nearly a third of the monkeys had died.” If the company in the philippines that distributed the monkeys to the monkey house weren’t so careless and examined the monkeys properly the whole incident could have been avoided. Human carelessness is not the only theme however there is plenty more such as the selfishness of the doctors that could have been infected but chose to keep it a secret to avoid the slammer. The message I received from the book is that humans are to blame for their own mistakes, if dirty needles were not used then people would not have gotten sick. The book did a good job teaching that humans are not perfect and can make mistakes very easily, but with caution disasters can be prevented.
Richard Preston makes his book come alive with vivid imagery and characters that the reader can relate to. The book starts with Charles Monet a simple laborer working at a sugar factory in Kenya when he suddenly gets sick after visiting a cave. The next characters introduced are Nancy and Jerry Jaax. They are husband and wife veterinarians that work for the military. They are portrayed as a good family that can balance work and family. The next character introduced is Eugene Johnson. He is a virus specialist that leads an expedition to kitum cave to search for marburg. The reason he goes to kitum cave is because of Peter Cardinal and Charles Monet’s illnesses after going there. Next up is Peter Jahrling, he is a virologist and co discovered the reston ebola virus. The other co discoverer of the virus is Tom Geisbert, he was an intern at USAMRIID. Other main characters include Clarence James Peters the leader of the reston biohazard operation, Philip Russell who gave the order to dispatch military units to reston and Dr. Joseph B. Mccormick the chief of the special pathogens branch of the C.D.C. he was the doctor that accidently stuck a needle in him when treating Ebola patients. He chose to stay and help the people and later found out that the needle was not ebola but possibly malaria.
The book takes place primarily in the 1980s around Washington D.C and Kenya. It starts in Kenya with Charles Monet living their and then Peter Cardinal visiting and getting sick. Then it goes to Reston, Virginia where the monkey house is and Reston Ebola is discovered.
The story was well written and held my attention throughout. I liked the imagery such as when Nancy cut her hand and it though described it in flawless detail and when she he suit was breached but she was just bleeding from the previous wound.
The Hot Zone was an interesting read that kept me entertained and educated me with facts. I learned a lot more about viruses and diseases and realized just how deadly they can be. It also taught me how humans are the top of the food chain but with one mistake they can all be wiped out from a small virus.
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