The Hot Zone: Part Three

Part three of The Hot Zone has been my favorite so far! Part three of the novel focuses on the operation to get rid of the virus in the monkey house and of all the monkeys too. I could tell by just reading the first page of this part that Gene Johnson was a man who liked to be prepared- hence all the items he packed with him. But I find that all somewhat understandable, since Ebola is a maddening thing! Everything that happens in the monkey house is suspenseful, gross, weird, or just scary. For instance, the monkey that escaped from its cage and was running around? I consider that pretty weird and nerve-wrecking since it could be this smart monkey who starts killing everyone (I wasn’t thinking logically when I thought that)! And all those used syringes with needles found in the wooded area behind the building- gross…and dangerous considering there was a day care center nearby too! I was saddened when I read about them having to euthanize all those monkeys, even if it was for the safety of other people. However, I actually found myself crying when I read that Nancy Jaax’s father had died; it was really heartbreaking since she found out the he was a veteran, she mistaken the whole time, and she didn’t get to see him in his last few moments. I found it somewhat funny that the news crew did not get any footage of what was occurring at the monkey house; but if they had just gone to the side of the building, they would’ve got lots of footage of the major biohazard mission occurring inside the monkey house. I also thought it to be amusing when the team of civilians and animal-care technicians and USAMRIID people went from the monkey to Taco Bell for dinner, reminding us that they are normal people just like us. And yet again, Preston adds in sorrow, irony, suspense, terror, and humor into just a single part of the novel, sending me through a roller coaster of thoughts and emotions.

Again, I learned a lot while reading this section. I read about the bubble stretcher biocontainment pod in the Level 4 biocontainment ambulance. It was interesting to learn about the Racal suit’s design and how it works, such as how the air filter works. I also read about the process of sedating and euthanizing monkeys. The monkey’s thigh is hit with a double dose of ketamine and is shot with the sedative Rompun. Then, blood samples are taken from it and then it is given a third injection of the lethal drug T-61, a euthanizing agent. I also found the decontamination process of the monkey house is very fascinating. The decon team have to remove any and all wastes first and scrub the building with bleach. Then they perform the process involving heating disinfecting crystals in the airtight building, causing formaldehyde to release into every part of the building. If the process killed the sturdy Bacillus subtilis niger spores placed throughout the building, then it was safe, and there was nothing living there at all. When I read about mutant strain of Ebola, the Ebola Reston, I panicked and fell off the couch- again. It was really interesting to read about it! I’ve learned that the whole issue all comes down to two things: genetic code and any changes that may occur in it. Something had changed in the Ebola Zaire virus to make the Ebola Reston contagious and harmful to monkeys but not to humans. I was astonished when I read Coleus, Jahrling, and Geisbert are all still alive. A change in the genetic code changed one of the virus’s seven proteins, changing the effects completely! I was astonished at how similar Ebola Zaire and Ebola Reston are, but how differently they affect organisms.

I’d like to know if Ebola spreads through the air or not, because Peters said no tests were performed to see if it does; they are assuming it probably does, since it is the most reasonable explanation to all the sick monkeys.  I’d also like a definite answer to why Ebola Reston is so much like Ebola Zaire, even though Reston supposedly came from Asia. The burning question I still have is: is there a cure for Marburg, Ebola Zaire, Ebola Sudan, and Ebola Reston? Will someone develop one soon? Are there going to be sudden outbreaks in Reston following the operation at the monkey house? I hope I read more about all this and more!  I can’t wait to start reading the next part of The Hot Zone!

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