The Hot Zone is a thrilling story that tells the history of filoviruses, specifically Marburg and Ebola, through incidents and exploration with field experts attempting to understand the virus and prevent the spread. In terrifying detail you’ll learn of how close we were to having an outbreak in the western world.  The story cycles through multiple perspectives during the search for an origin host in Africa, virus labs, and infected monkey houses.

Richard Preston describes the scenario as the most professional people in the industry, who despite all precautions, making blunders while handling liquid death.  Wrangling infected monkeys, experiencing suit failures, sniffing infected blood samples.  The precautions and care poured into a joint effort by the army and the CDC to contain the virus and prevent an Ebola outbreak ultimately fail, but out of sheer luck, the air born mutation of the Ebola virus is non-lethal to humans.  It could have just as easily been fatal. The most shocking and absolutely horrifying detail is that this book is nonfiction.  When writer Stephen King says that the first chapter is “one of the most horrifying things I’ve read in my whole life,” I don’t believe he is exaggerating.  Sometimes reality can be scarier than fiction.  

I will be keeping this write up very short because although I loved The Hot Zone, I don’t believe I can add much outside of providing a glowing recommendation.  The book is an extremely well-written eye opening experience, and despite being about 16 years old at the point of this post, the book is quite topical considering our current covid pandemic. If you want a better grasp of how the scientific community operates surrounding deadly viruses and wonder how the spread of a disease can spread so easily look no further than The Hot Zone.


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