Ladyrebecca's Musings and Ramblings

The Increasingly Political Thoughts of Rebecca (Becky) Walker

A Very Scary Book But Then Not So Much November 27, 2006

Filed under: Anecdotal — Addicted to Yarn @ 8:48 am

So I got this book from the library called The Hot Zone or The Hot Spot.  The book covered the movement of three viral infections from about 1975 – present, Marburg (similar to Ebola with a 20% kill rate), Ebola Sudan (with a 50% kill rate), and Ebola Zaire (with a 90% kill rate).
Basically, the movie Outbreak was based on real events.  Now, there wasn’t an Ebola outbreak on US soil, but there almost was. 
The book starts by covering a number of incredibly gruesome deaths.  The author showed how the virus was transmitted, through body fluid, much like the AIDS virus.  He showed the speed with which the virus worked and the inability of science to find either a source or a treatment.  The medical and scientific worlds were unable to find anything that helped.  Nothing stopped it and nothing slowed it down.  With all three virsus, some people would get sicker and sicker and nothing would bring down their fevers and they would exhibit all the same symptoms but then they would get better.  But with a 50% or greater kill rate, more often than not, they just died.
So, there was a monkey house, a quarintine house for imported monkeys, located just outside of Washington D.C., that began having a more than normal number of deaths.  They began looking into it and realized that it might be something that the authorities should look into.  So the vet in charge sends some samples to the Army medical research facility.  They begin looking at it, but because they don’t know how bad it is they don’t use Level 4 containment.  They just treat it like a monkey disease.  A young microscope technician looks at it under his electron microscope and finds, whoops, this looks a lot like Marburg or Ebola.  So they do some tests (now in Level 4) and find that it appears to be Ebola Zaire.  What to so?  They let the chain of command know and they decide that they need to move.  So they make this monkey house a Level 4 containment facility and they start killing monkeys (because the virus has proven to move through the air and all the monkeys risk being infected and infectious).  There are over 450 monkeys and they don’t want to be stuck with a needle and these guys are in space suits and it’s imperitive that they not get bitten.  Oh, and the H/VAC system is broken so even though it’s January outside, with 450 monkeys in the building, it’s like the jungle inside.  And did I mention that they were in space suits?  No AC in a space suit.  There are a couple of close calls, one monkey gets loose and they have to chace him around for a couple of days.
So they start studying this and there are a couple of questions that they can’t figure out.  There were a couple of exposures which, considering the contagiousness of this virus, should have killed a number of people.  But they didn’t even get the sniffles.  So the team continues to search and research and study and examine and culture and dissect.  And they aren’t coming up with any answers until they finally realize that it is Ebola Zaire, but mutated in such a way that it doesn’t kill humans.  It’s Ebola Reston (the name of the Monkey House).  It kills monkeys at what appears to be a rate of 100%, travels through the air, and cannot be transmitted to humans.  Well, that’s not true.  Humans can get it but it doesn’t kill them.  It doesn’t even raise their tempterature. 
How long until it mutates again?  How long until it breaks into the human world?  The American world?  It is only a matter of time…..

Or not.  That last part was part of the author’s motive for writing the book.  This is nature’s way of fighting back against the predator/virus of humans that are killing off her rainforests and jungles and such.  I think that we should be more conserving and less “devil-may-care” about cutting into the rainforests and jungles, but I am not ready to say that these killer viruses are Nature’s revenge.
It was an interesting book and a good read.  Unlike this other book I got about the beef industry. I knew that it was going to be mostly liberal pap but I wasn’t prepared for the incredibly detailed description of a twin still birth in which a calf is … ya know what, you don’t want to hear about it any more than I did.  Lets just say that the birth did not go well and the author described it very accurately.  I actually didn’t even finish the first chapter.  I didn’t even finish the birth.  Israel finished that part and then said, “You don’t want to read this.” and I agreed that I didn’t.  Turns out that when Israel gets books like that he just doesn’t read me the icky parts.  So this guy didn’t even get a chance to tell me anything and have me take the good and leave the bad becauce he had to wield a battle ax instead of a scapell.  His loss.

That’s what I’ve been reading folks. 


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