THIS is how you write gripping medical related non-fiction! Part medical mystery, part horror story and 100% true. While it wasn’t the barrel of laughs Get Well Soon was earlier this year it was infinitely more entertaining than Pox, despite scaring me shitless about ever going to Africa or getting close to a monkey.
This isn’t a book for everyone because, well, Ebola is creepy. Even now there isn’t a surefire cure and the path to death is a gruesome, bloody mess. The term “liquefied” is used several times to describe victims’ organs…
Second of all, you are going to have to get past all the monkey killing. I kept having to put this down, play some Angry birds, and remind myself that a monkey in the wild in the ’90s would probably be dead by now anyway.
Preston covers the origins of Marburg and Ebola, including where scientists believe it came from, possibly Kitum Cave, and the first human cases in the ’70s. The description of the deaths these people suffered is the stuff of nightmares and the distance Charles Monet was able to travel before dying? The man was able to get on a plane!!! Terrifying.
Preston explains to the reader there are levels of bio-safety and protocols in place for dealing with “hot agents” like Ebola and Marburg which are Level 4 because there is no vaccine or cure. Preston uses Dr Nancy Jaax, a scientist with the Army, and her close call with a punctured suit and a cut on her hand as an example of how scary working with Ebola can be. *Shudder*
The largest section is about the 1989 outbreak at a monkey quarantine center in Reston, Virginia. Monkeys kept getting sick so their keeper asked USAMRIID (Army Reseachers) to look into what may be the cause. The tissue samples from the dead monkeys appeared to have similar properties to Ebola Zaire although none of the monkey handlers showed symptoms of Ebola. The Army contained the virus and disposed of the monkeys. I kept waiting to find out someone was going to get Ebola from a monkey bite until I remembered the first case of Ebola in America was in 2014 which got me wondering why Preston hasn’t felt compelled to write a follow up of sorts with all the developments in the last 20 years.
Now I’m off to bathe in bleach and Purell.