When Robert Preston’s Hot Zone was published in 1994, it was an immediate best-seller. Written in the style of a thriller, Preston describes what happens when an unknown virus breaks out at a monkey house in Reston, Virginia.
While it reads like fiction, the events actually happened. Nearly five hundred monkeys at a Reston research facility were dying horrific deaths. Caretakers suspect the monkey are dying of simian fever (harmless to humans) but they send a sample to USAMRIID as a precaution.
USAMRIID or United States Army Military Research Institute for Infection Diseases have the personnel and knowledge to test for level 4 hot agents e.g. Marburg or Ebola.
When the sample glows positively against known samples of the Ebola virus, the US Army know it has serious problem.
Yet there is one perplexing mystery. All of the known outbreaks of Ebola had come from Africa. This particular shipment of crab-eating monkeys came from the Philippines.
As it turns out, the agent is not Ebola Zaire at all but rather a new agent that Army researchers call Ebola Reston.
Preston’s work, which captures the fear and chaos that accompanies a breakout, is even more relevant today than when it was published in the 1990s.