Couple discusses “hot” viruses

Jill Fier

Jill Fier

U.S. Army Colonels Nancy and Jerry Jaax presented a lecture Tuesday night at the Performing Arts Center on campus at 7:00 p.m. about their expertise in “hot” [extremely infectious] viruses and high hazard biological research.

Their presentation, “Inside the Hot Zone: Report from the Front Lines of Virus Control,” focused on their past experience with controlling a potentially lethal outbreak of the Ebola virus in Reston, Virginia.

The husband and wife team has 20 years of experience in the Army Veterinary Corps. They have “worked with the most dangerous viruses known to man, and are acknowledged experts in medical defense against chemical and biological agents.”

The two played heroic characters in the best seller The Hot Zone and their story also inspired the movie Outbreak.

The Ebola virus is highly contagious and kills by massive internal hemorrhage. The virus, which can jump from one species to another, was brought into the United States in 1989 through imported monkeys to a quarantine facility in Virginia. Jerry led a team of soldiers into the hot zone to contain the outbreak, and Nancy performed emergency autopsies on the monkeys to find the cause of death.

Both are now retired from the Army and work at Kansas State University.

Erin Klein, president of the Microbiology club, said the organization wanted to sponsor an event like this for the student body because it would appeal to so many students, not just those with an interest in science.

“There are so many people that have come up to me and said they have read this book, it was a bestseller and it still is famous.

Klein also said she thought bringing speakers with this kind of real-life experience would help to raise students’ awareness of the possibility of virus outbreaks.

“It’s an interesting story because they prevented an outbreak in the United States. Word didn’t get out until after it happened, which is good because it would have caused panic. It’s something that a lot of people don’t know about. I think they should be aware of diseases like this,” she said.

“Outbreaks happen in other countries all the time, but they don’t here and I think we just become accustomed to it. We think it could never happen here.”

Klein said she hoped that students were able get answers to any questions they had about the possibility of chemical and biological warfare.

“It’s important at this time in history because there’s a war going on and there is a lot of talk about biological weapons.”

They have worked with Ebola and a lot of other organisms that could be used as biological weapons.

“She added that an expert’s perspective could help to put many people’s minds at ease.”

“They’re experts in medical defense against biological warfare, and it’s something that’s in the news with a lot of speculation. Come and see what the experts have to say about it.”

The lecture was co-sponsored by the Student Association, the Department of Biology/Microbiology Graduate Lecture Series, Cinema 5 and the Pre-Vet Club.

#1.887159:3443182072.jpg:virus.jpg:Nancy and Jerry Jaax have ?worked with the most dangerous viruses known to man.?:courtesy photo