As soon as the meeting breaks up, C. J. Peters begins planning. First, he needs an officer who can lead a team into the monkey house, and for this position, he chooses Jerry Jaax. Although Jerry has never worn a spacesuit, he is the chief of the Institute’s veterinary division, and he has experience directing people. Finding Jerry in his office, Peters tells him that the Army is going to need to euthanize the monkeys “in Biosafety Level 4 conditions,” and asks him to put together a team of soldiers and civilians that can be ready to move out in twenty-four hours.
In contrast to the uncertainty and squabbling of the previous chapter, Jerry and C. J. both react quickly and decisively in this moment. Jerry, in particular, shows immense bravery here—despite the fact hat he’s never been in a spacesuit, and is deeply fearful of Ebola, he doesn’t hesitate to do his duty in combating the virus.
Jerry then visits Gene Johnson in order to map out a plan. They set up a series of priorities: Priority One is to ensure the safety of the human population. Priority Two is to euthanize the animals as humanely as possible. Priority Three is to gather scientific samples to learn more about the strain. Gene believes that a team working well and efficiently can keep the population safe, and he also feels strongly that he cannot bear going inside to kill monkeys. He does, however, have a large amount of equipment from his time in Kitum Cave that will at last prove useful. Gene feels both excited and afraid, ready to confront the virus that he has chased for years, and yet terrified of what may happen. Gene considers the monkey house’s similarities to Kitum Cave—its enclosed air, and its contamination by monkey dung and urine. He also thinks about the Reston employees who may already be infected. He realizes that the Army will need to create an air lock with a decontamination shower leading into the building. Again he wonders what exactly is growing inside the monkey house.
Unlike the chaos and disagreement of the meeting, here Jerry and Gene show a great amount of focus and discipline as they begin to flesh out their plan of attack. For Gene in particular, this moment represents the culmination of his life’s work, and a validation of his fascination with Ebola over the years. At the same time, he understands how truly dire the situation is, and even believes that there may be casualties. It is important, too, to understand the nuances within the priorities that Gene and Jerry map out—they involve not only eradicating the virus, but also learning more about it. This double-pronged approach of both combating and researching Ebola reflects both the men’s commitment to their research and their bravery.
After the meeting Dan Dalgard returns to his office, removes the floppy disk that contains his diary from his computer, and heads home to his family. Later that night he types up a chronology of events. Jarvis Purdy appears to be stable, and all of the other monkey caretakers are now wearing respirators for their once-a-day visits to the animal rooms. He has also briefed the lab at Hazleton on the dangerousness of the samples that they are handling. Dalgard reminds himself that any labs that have received shipments from Hazleton may be in danger, and he thinks about all the other people who may be in peril.
At last the Reston monkey house has begun to take precautions in order to combat the virus. But even these measures—wearing respirators in the animal rooms—feel like too little too late, considering all that the readers know about Ebola by now. Dalgard does, however, at last begin to think about the broader implications of this outbreak—another reminder of how globalization can spread disease.
While Dan Dalgard types, he gets a call from Nancy Jaax, who believes that the monkeys have simian hemorrhagic fever, Ebola, or both—her results are “ambiguous.”
Even Nancy Jaax, experienced and skilled in her field, cannot identify the infection—again showing the power and mystery of viruses.