Review: Crisis in the Red Zone

What's better than reading a bloody good thriller? It's knowing that the bloody (literally bloody) good thriller is a 100% true account.

Before this book I knew the Ebola virus was scary, but I'd never appreciated just how scary it really is.

I loved the way Preston explained the science and medical aspects of the Ebola epidemic in a way that a complete science-dud like me could understand and find intriguing. And extra kudos to the author for extending his research beyond the virus itself to the personal background of all the key players of this outbreak — it's what made this book read more like a thrilling tale with diverse characters than a scientific article with jargons I cannot digest.

What's also interesting is just how relevant this book is in current times and, in some respects, eerily similar.

Consider the WHO's initial response to warnings of the Ebola outbreak:

Officials at the World Health Organization reacted to the Doctors' report with skepticism. A WHO spokesman … tweeted a response, saying that the outbreak was "relatively small still" and there was "no need to overblow something which is already bad enough," and "there has never been an Ebola outbreak larger than a couple of hundred cases."

Sound familiar? Yeah, back in late January 2020, despite the severity of the situation in Wuhan and the spread of the coronavirus to several other countries already by that time, WHO decided not to declare the outbreak a global emergency. And subsequently, it continued to advise against international travel and trade restrictions.

Preston says he is not a prophet. But the warnings in this book (published only months before the outbreak started in Wuhan) prove that he has underestimated his skill in crystal-gazing:

What I propose to look at is a global outbreak that might be termed a Level 4 event worldwide outbreak of a Biosafety Level 4 emerging virus that travels in the air from person to person, and is vaccineless and untreatable with modern medicine.

A dry virus with high mortality that infected people through the lungs. No vaccine, no medical treatment for the virus. If you take the subway, if you ride in an elevator, you can be infected, too. … Medical staff absent, dying, overwhelmed. All hospital beds full. … Schools closed. People avoiding supermarkets for fear of contagion. Prophets and visioners predicting the future and offering cures. People leaving the city, bringing the virus with them. Airports inactive, flights cancelled

Whilst Covid-19 is not a Level 4 virus, what's clear is that it's high time to learn from history, and to start taking necessary precautions for even worse outbreaks in future — because there will be more *touch wood*.

Here's to hoping, too, that one day, governments and officials around the world will prioritise human lives over the economy and politics.

Completed: 23 July 2020

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Unfortunately, there are too many idiots who have continued to attach labels such as 'fake news' and 'fear-mongering' to the current pandemic. And thus, weeks after Australia got the coronavirus under control, everyone relaxed, and we're now seeing record cases and deaths in Victoria.

Thanks for ruining the plans for a Trans-Tasman Bubble between New Zealand and Australia! (I'm obviously very bitter about this because my parents had planned to travel here from NZ to help with the baby.)


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