My novel The Devil on Chardonnay is about an Ebola outbreak that spreads to the United States. I’ve been fascinated by this illness since I was the Pentagon action officer creating the Global Emerging Infectious Disease Surveillance and response System. I had access to the world’s experts on Ebola and I milked them shamelessly for insight as I was going to write a novel about it. The beginning of The Devil on Chardonnay is based on the account I got in person from the army veterinarian who observed the Kikwit outbreak for the World Health Organization in 1996.
Ebola lives in the jungle of the Congo basin, and outbreaks start when people kill and butcher monkeys for food. Ebola spreads from contact with bodily fluid, especially blood, and it’s 80% fatal. No other illness except rabies has that high a fatality rate; not smallpox, not anthrax, not meningitis. It isn’t endemic in monkeys because it kills them as fast as it kills people, so a small group that gets Ebola is wiped out. Where does Ebola live between primate outbreaks? That’s the biggest mystery in microbiology.
I did extensive research for The Devil on Chardonnay. The only departure from scientific fact in the story involves a slight evolution that makes it viable in a mosquito’s stomach and therefore transmissible by that insect vector. Ebola doesn’t do that. Everything else, including the vaccine technology in the story is factual. It is one hell of a story. If you want to know all about Ebola, read The Devil on Chardonnay.