The Hot Zone

By Richard Preston

Nina Chandler

A Terrifyingly True Story

The Hot Zone is a compilation of true stories based on the Ebola outbreak. The book is based off an outbreak of the EBola virus from a monkey house just outside of Washington D.C. The book starts off in Kenya with the Charles Monet who died of Marburg. The book then traces to a number of similar stories surrounding the theory of this new disease, and trying to understand it. Most of the terrifying stories take place in less privileged countries where conditions are horrible. These small, yet significant stories help the reader understand and emphasize on how dangerous Ebola is and what effects lethal viruses have.

What is Ebola?

  • Extremely lethal virus from tropics and closely related to Marburg
  • Three known subtypes include: Ebola Zaire, Ebola Sudan, and Ebola Reston
  • Ebola Zaire is the most serious and dangerous form of the Ebola virus
  • It attacks every organ and tissue in the human body except skeletal muscle and bone
  • The seven mysterious proteins that work together to consume the body as the virus makes copies of itself
  • Especially attacks connective tissue, multiplies in collagen (constitute protein of the tissue that holds the organs together)
  • It multiplies so quickly and powerfully that the body's infected cells become crystal-like blocks of naked virus particles (bricks)

The Structure of the Ebola Virus:

  • Genetic code in Ebola is a single strand of RNA
  • This type of molecule is thought to be the oldest and most "primitive" coding mechanism for life
  • This information suggests that it is and ancient form of life
  • Ebola is a virus that cannot live on its own and is a parasite
  • A virus is a small capsule made of membranes and proteins
  • The virus makes copies of itself inside a cell until the cell fills up with the virus and pops
  • Viruses will die unless it can jump fast enough out of the dying host to a new host
  • The Ebola virus particle contains seven different proteins in a long stringy braided structure
  • The Ebola proteins specifically target the immune system as it sweeps through the body it makes the body lose its ability to respond to viral attacks

How it is Transmitted:

  • It is not really known how it is transmitted from person to person
  • The viruses is thought to travel through direct contact with blood and other bodily fluids
  • One path goes from dead to living, winding in uncoagulated blood and slimes in dead bodies
  • Based on Nancy Jaax's tests it is now known that it can also travel through the air in aerosolized droplets

Ebola's Process:

  1. The blood thickens, slows, and small clots stick to blood vessel walls (pavementing). This shuts off blood supply to some parts of the body causing dead spots to occur.
  2. The skin develops red spots (petechiae). The spots grow and spread to become large bruises. The underlying layers of the skin die and the skin gets extremely sensitive to any touch.
  3. Hemorrhagic blood pours out of any cuts or glands in the skin, mouth, and every other little opening.
  4. The heart also bleeds into itself and the chest cavity fills with blood.
  5. Sludging of the brain occurs, or in other words it fills up with dead blood cells.
  6. The bodies internal organs become plugged with coagulated blood, while the blood streaming out of the body cannot clot.
  7. Patients then experience tremors and convulsions of a stroke which smears the blood around. This transmission through smearing allows the virus a chance to go to a new host.

Accuracy of Information:

I believe this book was very scientifically accurate. At the back of the book is a credits section where Richard Preston, the author, gives credit to a series of virologists and centers like The Center for Disease Control. Richard Preston also says "I am a compulsive act-checker, calling people on the telephone, re-intervewing them, checking what I've written, doing my best to confirm verifiable details. (I once spent hours with Colonel Nancy Jaax at her kitchen table, inspecting her hands carefully so that I could describe her hands. At the same time, I was asking Colonel Jaax things like "What was going through your mind at the moment you discovered you had EBola blood running around inside your space suit?")" (Richard Preston) This quote leads to believe me all the information was very accurate in The Hot Zone. If Richard Preston takes that much time to check all of his facts and really immerses himself into his story then I believe his book is very scientifically accurate.


This was a great book. It is filled with action and suspense. I would recommend this book to others. Ebola is often in the news and becoming more and more important in the virus world. I think this book is a excellent one to read because you will be much more knowledgeable the next time you hear about Ebola. This book not only provides a good foundation for readers knowledge of Ebola but also how viruses and hot agents work and are treated. Although it is very informative and educational it is also very exciting. It is definitely a page turner that you never want to put down.

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