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The Hot Zone

The Hot Zone
Author Richard Preston
Country United States
Language spanish
Publisher '
Publication date
Media type Print (Paperback and Hardback)
Pages 422
ISBN ISBN 0-385-47956-5

The Hot Zone, A Terrifying True Story is a best-selling 1994 non-fiction bio-thriller by Richard Preston describing the origins of incidents involving the hemorrhagic fevers caused by Ebola and Marburg viruses. The basis of the book was research done by Preston for his 1992 New Yorker article "Crisis in the Hot Zone".

The filoviruses Ebola and Marburg are both Biosafety Level 4 agents (because they are extremely human lethal and very infectious), that are often found in central Africa. Along with describing the history of these two illnesses, Preston describes an incident in which Ebola was suspected to be found in a Reston, Virginia, monkey storage warehouse.

The book is divided into four sections:

  • "The Shadow of Mount Elgon", delves into the history of these infective agents as well as speculation about the origins of AIDS. Preston accounts the story of "Charles Monet" (a pseudonym), who caught Marburg from a cave nearby his home in central Africa. The author describes in great detail the progress of the disease, from the initial headache and backache, to the final stage in which Monet's internal organs fail and he "bleeds out" (i.e., hemorrhages extensively) in a waiting room in a Nairobi hospital.
  • The discovery of Ebola Reston virus among imported monkeys in Reston, Virginia
  • More on the Reston outbreak, which involved a strain of the virus that does not affect humans but which can spread by air, which the Ebola Zaire virus cannot.
  • The aftermath of the "Ebola scare"

Due to the detailed and graphic descriptions of the effects of exotic tropical diseases, as well as the revelation that Ebola was found a few miles away from Washington D.C., The Hot Zone was hailed by many as a chilling and accurate story of lethal viruses and their encounters with humans.


Joseph B. McCormick

Joseph B. McCormick, M.D, worked for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1974, and was made chief of the Special Pathogens Branch in 1982. He was responsible for the creation of the Level 4 containment structure at the CDC in Atlanta.

Joseph McCormick was a main character in Richard Preston's non-fiction thriller The Hot Zone.

Both Joe and his wife, Susan Fisher-Hoch, are noted experts in dangerous diseases, particularly those of West Africa. Together they wrote the book Virus Hunters of the CDC.


  • In his blurb, Stephen King called the book, "one of the most horrifying things I've ever read."
  • Because Preston's writing style is that of a "science fact" thriller, some critics (1) accused Preston of dramatizing and exaggerating the effects of an Ebola infection and embellishing facts with his own imagination. Since its publication over a decade ago, however, The Hot Zone is generally regarded as a nonfiction work and acknowledged for its masterful dramatization.23456)
  • The Hot Zone served as the loose basis of the Hollywood movie Outbreak (1995) about military machinations surrounding a fictional "Motaba virus."

See also

Hot zone (biohazard)


    • Richard Preston
    • CNN Article on Ebola
    • Joseph B. McCormick, MD at New York Academy of Sciences
    This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "The_Hot_Zone". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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