Is the agent that killed Charles Monet a character in the Hot Zone? If it is a character, what sort of a character is it and what role does it seem to play?
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When Charles Monet arrives at Nairobi Hospital and is treated by Dr. Shem Musoke, the reader is introduced to the theme of chance in the spread of filoviruses. Dr. Musoke seems to have the potential to be one of the heroes of the book: he is young, energetic, and dedicated to his patients, even to the point of staying by Monet’s bedside until his death. Yet, as a reward for his close attention to his patient, Dr. Musoke is himself infected with the virus and nearly dies. Preston makes it clear that the filoviruses select their victims indiscriminately, regardless of character, morality, or action. The Hot Zone is not a work of fiction, and, in reality, good people are infected and die, simply by random chance.
When he describes the initial outbreak of the Marburg virus in 1967, Preston again alludes to the unjust nature of the filoviruses. Just as Dr. Musoke is infected because of his concern for his patient, the workers in Marburg are infected because they work at a factory that creates preventative vaccines. In both cases, individuals are exposed to the viruses as a direct result of their actions in aid of others. This scenario serves as a foreshadowing to the work of Nancy Jaax, Gene Johnson, and other scientists, who place themselves in extreme danger for the sake of their research.
However, even as he demonstrates the danger of selflessness, Preston is careful to reveal that the Marburg outbreak is partially due to human error and negligence. The English veterinarian who inspects the monkeys en route to Germany only gives them a brief visual inspection. Moreover, the monkeys that are deemed to be “sick” are not actually destroyed but shipped to an isolated island at the order of the company owner. While Charles Monet’s exposure to Marburg can be attributed to chance, the original outbreak of the virus is the direct result of laziness and greed. In this brief scene, Preston alludes to his later argument about humans being partially, if not wholly, responsible for the emergence of these deadly hot agents.