In his blurb, horror writer Stephen King called the first chapter, "one of the most horrifying things I've read in my whole life." When asked whether any book "scared the pants off you" television writer Suzanne Collins answered, "The Hot Zone, by Richard Preston. I just read it a few weeks ago. Still recovering."
The Hot Zone has received criticism for sensationalizing the effects of Ebola virus. In their memoir Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC, former CDC scientists Joseph B. McCormick and Susan Fisher-Hoch lambaste Preston for claiming that Ebola dissolves organs, stating that although it cause great blood loss in tissues the organs remain structurally intact. McCormick and Fisher-Hoch also dispute Preston's version of the CDC's actions in the Reston virus incident.