Quotes from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus

Richard Preston ·  352 pages

Rating: (80.9K votes)


“In biology, nothing is clear, everything is too complicated, everything is a mess, and just when you think you understand something, you peel off a layer and find deeper complications beneath. Nature is anything but simple.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“To mess around with Ebola is an easy way to die. Better to work with something safer, such as anthrax.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“When people asked him why he didn't work with those viruses, he replied, I don't particularly feel like dying.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“The earth is attempting to rid itself of an infection by human parasite.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“It showed a kind of obscenity you see only in nature, an obscenity so extreme that it dissolves imperceptibly into beauty.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus



“He liked the loneliness of inner space, the sense of being forgotten by the world.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“Humans in space suits make monkeys nervous.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“And sometimes he thought of a favorite saying, a remark by Louis Pasteur, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“You can’t fight off Ebola the way you fight off a cold. Ebola does in ten days what it takes AIDS ten years to accomplish.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“He open his mouth and gasps into the bag, and the vomiting goes on endlessly. It will not stop, and he keeps bringing up liquid, long after his stomach should have been empty. The airsickness bag fills up to the brim with a substance known as the vomito negro, or the black vomit. The black vomit is not really black; it is a speckled liquid of two colors, black and red, a stew of tarry granules mixed with fresh red arterial blood. It is hemorrhage, and it smells like a slaughterhouse. The black vomit is loaded with virus.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus



“Once the cells in a biological machine stop working, it can never be started again. It goes into a cascade of decay, falling toward disorder and randomness. Except in the case of viruses. They can turn off and go dead. Then, if they come in contact with a living system, they switch on and multiply. (194)”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“Nature had seemed to be closing in on us for a kill, when she suddenly turned her face away and smiled. It was a Mona Lisa smile, the meaning of which no one could figure out.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“He saw virus particles shaped like snakes, in negative images. They were white cobras tangled among themselves, like the hair of Medusa. They were the face of nature herself, the obscene goddess revealed naked. This life form thing was breathtakingly beautiful. As he stared at it, he found himself being pulled out of the human world into a world where moral boundaries blur and finally dissolve completely. He was lost in wonder and admiration, even though he knew that he was the prey. (149)”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“Ebola Zaire attacks every organ and tissue in the human body except skeletal muscle and bone. It is a perfect parasite because it transforms virtually every part of the body into a digested slime of virus particles. The seven mysterious proteins that, assembled together, make up the Ebola-virus particle, work as a relentless machine, a molecular shark, and they consume the body as the virus makes copies of itself. Small blood clots begin to appear in the bloodstream, and the blood thickens and slows, and the clots begin to stick to the walls of blood vessels. This is known as pavementing, because the clots fit together in a mosaic. The mosaic thickens and throws more clots, and the clots drift through the bloodstream into the small capillaries, where they get stuck. This shuts off the blood supply to various parts of the body, causing dead spots to appear in the brain, liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines, testicles, breast tissue (of men as well as women), and all through the skin.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“He becomes dizzy and utterly weak, and his spine goes limp and nerveless and he loses all sense of balance. The room is turning around and around. He is going into shock. He leans over, head on his knees, and brings up an incredible quantity of blood from his stomach and spills it onto the floor with a gasping groan. He loses consciousness and pitches forward onto the floor. The only sound is a choking in his throat as he continues to vomit blood and black matter while unconscious. Then comes a sound like a bedsheet being torn in half, which is the sound of his bowels opening and venting blood from the anus. The blood is mixed with intestinal lining. He has sloughed his gut. The linings of his intestines have come off and are being expelled along with huge amounts of blood. Monet has crashed and is bleeding out.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus



“We don’t really know what Ebola has done in the past, and we don’t know what it might do in the future.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“The connective tissue in his face is dissolving, and his face appears to hang from the skull. He open his mouth and gasps into the bag, and the vomiting goes on endlessly. It will not stop, and he keeps bringing up liquid, long after his stomach should have been empty. The airsickness bag fills up to the brim with a substance known as the "vomito negro", or the black vomit. The black vomit is not really black; it is a speckled liquid of two colors, black and red. The black vomit is loaded with virus.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“In 1986—the year before Peter Cardinal died—Gene Johnson had done an experiment that showed that Marburg and Ebola can indeed travel through the air. He infected monkeys with Marburg and Ebola by letting them breathe it into their lungs, and he discovered that a very small dose of airborne Marburg or Ebola could start an explosive infection in a monkey. Therefore, Johnson wanted the members of the expedition to wear breathing apparatus inside the cave.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“The kill rate in humans infected with Ebola Zaire is nine out of ten. Ninety percent of the people who come down with Ebola Zaire die of it. Ebola Zaire is a slate wiper in humans.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“heart bleeds into itself; the heart muscle softens and has hemorrhages into its chambers, and blood squeezes out of the heart muscle as the heart beats, and it floods the chest cavity. The brain becomes clogged with dead blood cells, a condition known as sludging of the brain. Ebola attacks the lining of the eyeball, and the eyeballs may fill up with blood: you may go blind. Droplets of blood stand out on the eyelids: you may weep blood. The blood runs from your eyes down your cheeks and refuses to coagulate. You may have a hemispherical stroke, in which one whole side of the body is paralyzed, which is invariably fatal in a case of Ebola. Even while the body’s internal organs are becoming plugged with coagulated blood, the blood that streams out of the body cannot clot; it resembles whey being squeezed out of curds. The blood has been stripped of its clotting factors. If you put the runny Ebola blood in a test tube and look at it, you see that the blood is destroyed. Its red cells are broken and dead. The blood looks as if it has been buzzed in an electric blender. Ebola kills a great deal of tissue while the host is still alive. It triggers a creeping, spotty necrosis that spreads through all the internal organs. The liver bulges up and turns yellow, begins to liquefy, and then it cracks apart. The cracks run across the liver and deep inside it, and the liver completely dies and goes putrid. The kidneys become jammed with blood clots and dead cells, and cease functioning. As the kidneys fail, the blood becomes toxic with urine. The spleen turns into a single huge, hard blood clot the size of a”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus



“In a sense, the Earth is mounting an immune response against the human species. It is beginning to react to the human parasite, the flooding infection of people, the dead spots of the concrete all over the planet, the cancerous rot-outs in Europe, Japan and the United States, thick with replicating primates, the colonies enlarging and spreading and threatening to shock the biosphere with mass extinctions. Perhaps the biosphere does not 'like' the idea of five billion humans.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“Occasionally they came to villages, and at each village they encountered a roadblock of fallen trees. Having had centuries of experience with the smallpox virus, the village elders had instituted their own methods for controlling the virus, according to their received wisdom, which was to cut their villages off from the world, to protect their people from a raging plague. It was reverse quarantine, an ancient practice in Africa, where a village bars itself from strangers during a time of disease, and drives away outsiders who appear. (94)”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“if people learned what this virus could do, there would be traffic jams heading out of Reston, with mothers screaming at television cameras, “Where are my children?”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“baseball. The intestines may fill up completely with blood. The lining of the gut dies and sloughs off into the bowels and is defecated along with large amounts of blood. In men, the testicles bloat up and turn black-and-blue, the semen goes hot with Ebola, and the nipples may bleed. In women, the labia turn blue, livid, and protrusive, and there may be massive vaginal bleeding. The virus is a catastrophe for a pregnant woman: the child is aborted spontaneously and is usually infected with Ebola virus, born with red eyes and a bloody nose. Ebola destroys the brain more thoroughly than does Marburg, and Ebola victims often go into epileptic convulsions during the final stage. The convulsions are generalized grand mal seizures—the whole body twitches and shakes, the arms and legs thrash around, and the eyes, sometimes bloody, roll up into the head. The tremors and convulsions of the patient may smear or splatter blood around. Possibly this epileptic splashing of blood is one of Ebola’s strategies for success—it makes the victim go into a flurry of seizures as he dies, spreading blood all over the place, thus giving the virus a chance to jump to a new host—a kind of transmission through smearing. Ebola (and Marburg) multiplies so rapidly and powerfully that the body’s infected cells become crystal-like blocks of packed virus particles. These crystals are broods of virus getting ready to hatch from the cell. They are known as bricks. The bricks, or crystals, first appear near the center of the cell and then migrate toward the surface. As a crystal”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“Here are the names of some emerging viruses: Lassa. Rift Valley. Oropouche. Rocio. Q. Guanarito. VEE. Monkeypox. Dengue. Chikungunya. The hantaviruses. Machupo. Junin. The rabieslike strains Mokola and Duvenhage. LeDantec. The Kyasanur Forest brain virus.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus



“they get stuck. This shuts off the blood supply to various parts of the body, causing dead spots to appear in the brain, liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines, testicles, breast tissue (of men as well as women), and all through the skin. The skin develops red spots, called petechiae, which are hemorrhages under the skin. Ebola attacks connective tissue with particular ferocity; it multiplies in collagen, the chief constituent protein of the tissue that holds the organs together. (The seven Ebola proteins somehow chew up the body’s structural proteins.) In this way, collagen in the body turns to mush, and the underlayers of the skin die and liquefy. The skin bubbles up into a sea of tiny white blisters mixed with red spots known as a maculopapular rash. This rash has been likened to tapioca pudding. Spontaneous rips appear in the skin, and hemorrhagic blood pours from the rips. The red spots on the skin grow and spread and merge to become huge, spontaneous bruises, and the skin goes soft and pulpy, and can tear off if it is touched with any kind of pressure. Your mouth bleeds, and you bleed around your teeth, and you may have hemorrhages from the salivary glands—literally every opening in the body bleeds, no matter how small. The surface of the tongue turns brilliant red and then sloughs off, and is swallowed or spat out. It is said to be extraordinarily painful to lose the surface of one’s tongue. The tongue’s skin may be torn off during rushes of the black vomit. The back of the throat and the lining of the windpipe may also slough off, and the dead tissue slides down the windpipe into the lungs or is coughed up with sputum. Your”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


“The rain forest has its own defenses. The earth’s immune system, so to speak, has recognized the presence of the human species and is starting to kick in. The earth is attempting to rid itself of an infection by the human parasite. Perhaps AIDS is the first step in a natural process of clearance.”
― Richard Preston, quote from The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus


About the author

Richard Preston
Born place: in Massachusetts, The United States
Born date August 5, 1954
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