What I Learned While Reading “The Hot Zone”

by Marinka on July 8, 2012

As you may remember, this summer my daughter and I are reading The Hot Zone, Richard Preston’s account of the Ebola epidemic.

Obviously I’m reading it under duress and already have diagnosed myself with Ebola so I’m just awaiting the autopsy to confirm my findings (by the way, one of Papa’s favorite jokes is the autopsy revealed that the cause of death was the autopsy. Yes, he is available for parties, why do you ask?)

But I’ve also learned a few interesting facts from the book and I’m going to share them with you here, absolutely free of charge.


1. There is a river called Ebola. It’s in the Congo, in case you’re still in the destination-shopping phase of your honeymoon planning.

2.The United States Army has veterinarians. They take care of the Army’s guard dogs, pigs, cows, sheep, horses, monkeys, mules and rabbits.

3. The United States Army seems to have a lot of animals. You’d think they’d feature it more prominently in their recruitment posters, but it’s almost like they’re not even trying to appeal to 9 year old girls.

4. The United States Army doesn’t seem to have any cats. I don’t understand how we can expect any of our stealth missions to succeed with this blatant anti-feline bias. Have we learned nothing from the Don’t Ask, Don’t Meow fiasco?

5. HIV is only a Biosafety Level 2 agent. Ebola is a Biosafety Level 4 agent, although after reading the book, I am going to start a petition to have it upgraded to Biosafety Level 8 kazillion. (By the way, “What’s your Biosafety Level?” is an excellent pick up line!)

6. The good people at the United States Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID)were reluctant to travel to the Hot Zone. “They did not care to do research on Ebola because they did not want Ebola to do research on them.” Finally, a sentiment I agree with. I wonder if it’s too late for me to enlist?

7. “The first line of defense against a hot agent is sticky tae, because it seals cracks.” I don’t know about you, but I am going to be buying a lot of sticky tape. And maybe a stapler, just in case.

8. Apparently, it’s very ouchy to lose the surface of one’s tongue. OMG, I’m losing consciousness just knowing that tongues have surfaces. I hope that doesn’t affect my chances of a career with USAMRIID.

9. When I tweet an educational excerpt from the book:

some First Amendment enemy will tweet this in response:

But I won’t be silenced, Stacey, I won’t be. Because silence=death. And Ebola=death. So my silence=Ebola. I believe the math and science speak for themselves.

This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. And Ebola.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

anymommy July 8, 2012 at 11:50 am

Math, science and ebola definitely speak for themselves. Excuse me, I am going out to buy a life supply of sticky tape.


anna see July 8, 2012 at 5:20 pm

remember that cheesy early 90’s movie OUTBREAK? there’s a scene in the movie that takes place in a movie theater and the virus spreads w/in seconds. not a fan, even though it had tom hanks or someone in it.


Deb July 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm



kp July 8, 2012 at 7:31 pm

I laughed out loud at #3.


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes July 9, 2012 at 7:09 am

Oh man, now you tell me your father is available for parties. I could have used him yesterday at my parents 40th wedding aniversary lunch…


magpie July 9, 2012 at 10:23 am

Um, why does the army have bunny rabbits?


dusty earth mother July 9, 2012 at 10:34 am

Going out to buy my town’s entire supply of sticky tape. Thanks for the heads up.


July 9, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Is your dad available for “Hot Zone” book discussion group parties?


Mom of A and a July 9, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Stacey obviously has a problem with meat! :S


The Mommy Therapy
July 9, 2012 at 9:54 pm

I feel like I read this book over 10 years ago…this is an older one, right? I’m really hoping there aren’t multiple books like this floating around and terrifying all of us.

I intelligently read the book immediately prior to boarding a plan to Australia. I have never perspired more on a plane. Sheer terror.


love and lunchmeat July 10, 2012 at 9:49 am

How is HIV only a Biosafety Level 2? Who decides biosafety levels? Hmmm. I totally suspect the author of this book altered the actual biosafety levels just to terrify you. (They really should both be Level 80 gazillion.)


Roman the mad scientist August 29, 2013 at 6:29 am

HIV is readily treatable in developed countries. A couple of antivirals combined keep it down. Ebola kills so fast there isn’t a chance to use conventional drugs. Even interferon, some of the world’s most powerful antivirals, is basically useless (then again, it’s useless against the flu). Luckily, direct sunlight sterilizes just about any dry surface of Ebola (super sensitive to UV). Just get a positive pressure hazmat suit and a UV light; you should be fine.
Note: there is one drug that can cure Ebola, but only early on and the only sample of it is at MIT. Go figure.


Mexmom July 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Why would the Army have sheep, monkeys and bunnies, do they put on circus type performances overseas? do animals spread ebola as well?


ZachS April 1, 2013 at 9:26 pm

HIV is biosafety level 2 with Ebola at 4 becuase HIV doesn’t kill you in a week and you don’t spread HIV just from breathing. Need I explain in more detail?


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