Inside the Hot Zone


Inside the Hot Zone

A Soldier on the Front Lines of Biological Warfare

Mark G. Kortepeter

336 pages
28 photographs, index


January 2020


$34.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

January 2020


$34.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

January 2020


$34.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

2021 William E. Colby Award Finalist 

Inside the Hot Zone is an insider’s account of one of the most dangerous workplaces on earth: the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) in Fort Detrick, Maryland. Retired U.S. Army Col. Mark G. Kortepeter, a leading biodefense expert, recounts his journey from the lecture hall to the role of department chief, to the battlefield, to the Biosafety Level-4 maximum containment lab, and finally, to the corner office.

During Kortepeter’s seven and a half years in leadership at USAMRIID, the United States experienced some of the most serious threats in modern germ warfare, including the specter of biological weapons during the Iraq War, the anthrax letters sent after 9/11, and a little-known crisis involving a presumed botulism attack on the president of the United States. Inside the Hot Zone is a shocking, frightening eye-opener as Kortepeter describes in gripping detail how he and his USAMRIID colleagues navigated threats related to anthrax, botulism, smallpox, Lassa, and Ebola.

Kortepeter crafts a rich and riveting narrative as he wrestles with life-and-death decisions managing biological weapon exposures. The stories are real, but they could just as easily serve as plotlines in popular fiction or Hollywood thrillers. He gives the reader a seat at the table as each crisis unfolds, with an unvarnished and personal perspective on the dangers, the drama, the fear, the frustrations, the irony, and the uncertainty he encountered as a physician in the role of “Biodefender.

Author Bio

Mark G. Kortepeter is a professor in the Department of Epidemiology, College of Public Health, at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and a retired army colonel with more than twenty-five years of service. He is an expert in germ warfare defense and has held multiple leadership roles at the nation’s largest containment laboratory dedicated to biological warfare defense, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID).


"To understand and appreciate the bravery of the scientists working to protect our nation from such bio-epidemics, as well as how the U.S. military goes about protecting its troops from such threats, Inside the Hot Zone is a terrifying, but indispensable guide."—Joshua Sinai, Washington Times

"Inside the Hot Zone is very well written and covers sufficient background about the author’s journey, his medical credentials, and simplified explanations of medical diseases and associated protocols. . . . I highly recommend this to all members of the military regardless of rank or branch of service."—Lt. Col. George Hodge, Military Review

“Writing in a style reminiscent of The Coming Plague, Kortepeter sheds new light on the horrors of bioweapons, on the inner workings of the federal bureaucracy, and on the insiders’ views of the anthrax attacks. His expertise and experiences make Inside the Hot Zone compelling reading for anyone interested in scientific, medical, or military thrillers. And, scariest of all, the thrills are real.”—Ted Cieslak, MD, Col. (Ret.) U.S. Army, medical co-director of the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit and medical director of the Nebraska Quarantine Unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center

“Absolutely riveting. Dr. Kortepeter tells a fascinating story. . . . If you want to know what it is to be part of this exceptional team of heroic Americans working in the ‘hot zone,’ you should read this book.”—Lester Martinez-Lopez, MD, MPH, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) U.S. Army, and former commander of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, Fort Detrick, Maryland

“Col. Kortepeter’s inside story from the front lines of our nation’s defense against the real and increasing threat of biological weapons is fascinating. He gives voice in lucid prose to the unsung heroes working tirelessly at the world’s best biodefense research center at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Their mission is to keep America safe, and our nation owes them an enormous debt of gratitude.”—Andy Weber, former assistant secretary of defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs

“With extraordinary imagination, a deep knowledge of his subject, and riveting personal accounts of headline-making events in the search for protection against biologic weapons—both manmade and natural—Dr. Mark Kortepeter has written a gripping book. . . . The novice as well as the most experienced student of biological weapons will emerge from a reading of this book better informed, profoundly grateful for the courage and expertise of these ‘soldiers in the trenches,’ and surprisingly entertained.”—Eric B. Schoomaker, MD, PhD, Lt. Gen. U.S. Army (Ret.), 42nd Army Surgeon General and Commanding General, U.S. Army Medical Command

“While Richard Preston’s book The Hot Zone very effectively brought the importance of high containment virus work into the living rooms of America, it was heavily sensationalized and far from what actually occurs in a real BSL-4 laboratory. Dr. Kortepeter paints a much more accurate picture as seen from the inside by the staff who do the dangerous work on a daily basis.”—Thomas Geisbert, PhD, expert in Ebola and other high containment viruses at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston National Laboratory

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations    
Prologue: Exposure    
1. Beginnings    
2. Germs as Weapons    
3. The Six “Chessmen of Doom”    
4. Hoofbeats    
5. The Queen Strikes    
6. The Nation’s Bio-Emergency Hotline    
7. The Pawn Comes Calling    
8. Bioweapons 101    
9. Preparing for Biological Warfare    
10. Disaster from Within    
11. Bow to King Smallpox    
12. On the Front Lines    
13. Desert Pneumonia    
14. The 4M Disaster    
15. Countermeasures    
16. The Slammer    
17. On the Hot Side    
18. Descent into Hell    
19. Suspicion    
20. The Aftermath    
21. Down for the Count    
22. Behind the Scenes of Pandemic Response    
23. Looking Forward—the Challenges Continue    


2021 William E. Colby Award Finalist 

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