Image of Neighborhood where Starbucks will be located

Synapse: January 19, 1995

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

From 20 Years Ago:
Vol. 39, No. 16, Jan. 19, 1995:

The ongoing Ebola crisis in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone has been by far the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history with more than 8,000 deaths so far. This outbreak makes a front-page story of Synapse from 20 years ago seem especially timely. In “Science Fiction Turned Real,” Robert Rosenbloom reviewed “The Hot Zone,” a nonfiction thriller by Richard Preston about viral hemorrhagic fevers, including Ebola.

Rosenbloom called it “a book that I just can’t put down.” He wrote that “Preston’s anthropomorphic accounts of the virus and its modus operandi gave me a sense of why and how such awful creatures might develop and survive for eons. I was filled with respect for these infectious agents, as well as gratitude for the scientists who conduct research on them.”

Rosenbloom also noted that the book explored the possibility that such diseases might spread worldwide, particularly if a mutation rendered the one of these viruses transmissible through airborne droplets, something that, fortunately, has not occurred (and is an event that some experts have suggested would be quite unlikely).

Preston concluded with a warning, paraphrased by Rosenbloom: “We need to be better equipped and faster to mobilize in the event of an outbreak of new pathogens, no matter what segment of the population is affected.” Recalling the tardy and uncoordinated initial international response to the outbreak makes these words unfortunately prescient.