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K-State Today

November 4, 2021

Richard Preston, 'Hot Zone' author, to lecture on future pandemics

Submitted by Joe Montgomery

Richard Preston

The details of a 1994 bestselling novel "The Hot Zone" inspired a recent television miniseries. The author, Richard Preston, will be featured at Kansas State University to speak about future pandemics.

The talk will be at the College of Veterinary Medicine at noon Friday, Nov. 12, in the Boehringer Ingelheim Auditorium. The in-person lecture is only open to current veterinary medicine students, but it will also be made available on a limited basis through a livestream. Registration is available online. 

"The Hot Zone" was inspired by the true story of the arrival of Ebola on U.S. soil in 1989 in Reston, Virginia. "The Hot Zone" involves two prominent Kansas State University veterinarians and leaders: Nancy and Jerry Jaax, both Doctor of Veterinary Medicine graduates in 1973 and 1972, respectively.

After graduating, the Jaaxes both served in medical defense with the U.S. Army, during which time they became involved in the events depicted in "The Hot Zone." The couple is being honored as recipients of the K-State Alumni Association's Alumni Excellence Award on the evening of Nov. 12.

In April 2019, Preston told CNBC news that SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, "is part of a pattern of emerging viruses. Viruses coming out of the world's ecosystems and finding their way into the human species and then, as we now see, can do incredible damage."

"Richard Preston's work is highly relevant today, given the spread of the current pandemic and the zoonotic origins of emerging diseases," said Ron Trewyn, the university's National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility liaison. "His appearance at K-State serves to emphasize both the role of veterinary medicine in public health emergencies and the importance of high-containment research, such as will be conducted at NBAF and is currently ongoing in our Biosecurity Research Institute. We are very excited he is able to visit with us at K-State."

Preston is the bestselling author of 10 books, including "The Hot Zone," "The Wild Trees," and his most recent, "Crisis in the Red Zone." Preston's books explore little-known and dramatic worlds of nature, science and the human experience and have been published in more than 35 languages.

Preston has taught nonfiction writing at Princeton University and the University of Iowa. The recipient of many awards and honors, including a Special Citation of the FBI, he is the only non-physician to receive the Champion of Prevention Award of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An asteroid has been named "Preston" in his honor. Asteroid 3792 Preston travels on an unpredictable orbit near Mars and could some day slam into the Earth.

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