Seven books were published by a writer and a bestselling author named Richard Preston who was born on August 5, 1964. Richard Preston was responsible for the release or creation of a “Dark Biology Series” in the field of literature. All his writings or the books that he published are based on his experiences, extensive reviews, field works, and background research. Preston’s Dark Biology Series included his three bestselling books which are mostly about bioterrorism and the frightening and startling infectious plagues or outbreaks.
“The Cobra Event” and the “The Hot Zone” are two of the bestselling books which are included in the mentioned Dark Biology Series.
Richard Preston’s “The Hot Zone” was considered to be a non-fiction thriller, and is the expansion of or based from “Crisis in the Hot Zone” which is also his own article published in 1992 and his other researches. While on the other hand, Richard Preston’s “The Cobra Event” was considered to be a fiction bio-thriller novel which was published or released in 1998.
“The Cobra Event” is about the dreaded attempt of Archimedes. Archimedes was the man who created a virus which he would use in order to threaten the stability or security of the United States. Details or data for the story are meticulously gathered and inquired by Richard Preston on U.S. military, scientists, public health officials and the like who are involved greatly in the history of biological weapons; its development and application.
The viruses in Richard Preston’s “The Hot Zone” are the Ebola and the Marburg viruses.
It was stated in Preston’s novel that these viruses caused the viral hemorrhagic fevers which is characterized by bleeding. Sometimes, coagulation abnormalities are present which includes diffuse bleeding. The Ebola and the Marburg viruses, which are generally single stranded negative sense RNA viruses, are considered to be under the family Filoviridae or the so called filoviruses.
Primates are the primary targets of the Ebola and the Marburg viruses. Contrasting the two viruses with regards to their mortality rate, Ebola virus has greater mortality rate of around 50% to 90% as compared to Marburg virus which in average has at least 25%. Richard Preston’s interest with regards to the Ebola virus heightened due to his field experiences together with Dr. C.J. Peters and Nancy Jaax from the U.S. Army and it started during one of his trips to Africa which at that time was experiencing an epidemic due to the said virus.
On the other hand, the virus in Preston’s novel “The Cobra Event” is the fictitious “Motaba virus”. The Motaba virus, which is said to be even more deadly than the Ebola virus, is a combination of diverse qualities of different diseases, more specifically, is a mixture of the deadly smallpox and the untreatable common cold.
The Ebola virus and the Marburg virus are spread through bodily fluids whereas the Motaba virus, which is said to be a hybrid of different diseases, can also be transferred via air or is considered to be an airborne disease like a common cold. The viruses in Richard Preston’s novels, the Ebola and Marburg virus and the Motaba virus were considered to be Biosafety Level 4 agents. Level 4 agents were categorized to be exceedingly contagious and the lethal viruses ever known to man, thus extreme precautions are necessary and a must.
Studies, researches and tests on Biosafety Level 4 agents or viruses are to be contained in a Class III biological safety cabinet. Microorganisms are kept in a specialized room engineered specifically not to disseminate these into the environment and a negative air pressure is maintained. The negative air pressure is necessary in order to let the air flow into the room in instances where the protective barrier is broken or pierced, of which an airlock is provided for the entry and exit of every personnel.
In identifying the virus, especially in the case of the Motaba virus in “The Cobra Event”, it is necessary to first, conduct trials then tests involving the virus or certain viruses, followed by the diagnosis of either the victims of the virus or the virus itself. The last steps include the decision making and the actual operation for identifying the carrier of the virus, the anti-venom and its application on the victims or probable victims.
Preston, R. (2004). Richard Preston. Retrieved May 1, 2007, from http://www.richardpreston.net/
Trachtman, P. Review of ‘The Hot Zone’ [Electronic Version]. Science and Technology. Retrieved May 1, 2007 from http://www.smithsonianmag.com/issues/1995/june/book_0695.php