Note to editors: The following was prepared by Ron Trewyn, Kansas State University's National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, liaison. THE HOT ZONE airs on Monday, May 27, on National Geographic.
The year was 1989. The situation was dire: A possible Ebola-related outbreak in Virginia. The heroes who prevented it were Kansans: Nancy and Jerry Jaax, two Kansas State University veterinary medicine graduates and leaders.
Nancy and Jerry Jaax's story has inspired the upcoming National Geographic limited series, THE HOT ZONE. It is a story Richard Preston first detailed in his best-selling book by the same name and it is a story even more relevant 30 years later.
Ebola and other infectious diseases haven't disappeared. The world's second-biggest Ebola outbreak is spreading in the Democratic Republic of the Congo — only a few years after the devastating 2014-2015 outbreak killed more than 11,300 people in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization.
Our best defense against Ebola and other infectious diseases is research. We must support biosecurity, biosafety and biodefense. Research facilities — like Kansas State University's Biosecurity Research Institute at Pat Roberts Hall and the federal National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, under construction north of the university's Manhattan campus — are vital to protecting America from global biothreats. Most pandemic concerns today are zoonotic animal diseases that can spread from animals to people, so research to stop these diseases in the host animals can help safeguard human health worldwide.
With leaders like Nancy and Jerry Jaax, Kansas State University is ready for the challenge and has established itself as the "Silicon Valley for biodefense," according to former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
Everyone should watch THE HOT ZONE when it premieres on Monday, May 27, on National Geographic. Visit k-state.edu/hotzone to learn more.
Ron Trewyn, Kansas State University National Bio and Agro-defense Facility liaison