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Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic (2012)

by David Quammen

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,2824114,939 (4.31)93
Medical. Science. Nonfiction. HTML:

A masterpiece of science reporting that tracks the animal origins of emerging human diseases, Spillover is "fascinating and terrifying ... a real-life thriller with an outcome that affects us all" (Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction).

In 2020, the novel coronavirus gripped the world in a global pandemic and led to the death of hundreds of thousands. The source of the previously unknown virus? Bats. This phenomenon—in which a new pathogen comes to humans from wildlife—is known as spillover, and it may not be long before it happens again.

Prior to the emergence of our latest health crisis, renowned science writer David Quammen was traveling the globe to better understand spillover's devastating potential. For five years he followed scientists to a rooftop in Bangladesh, a forest in the Congo, a Chinese rat farm, and a suburban woodland in New York, and through high-biosecurity laboratories. He interviewed survivors and gathered stories of the dead. He found surprises in the latest research, alarm among public health officials, and deep concern in the eyes of researchers.

Spillover delivers the science, the history, the mystery, and the human anguish of disease outbreaks as gripping drama. And it asks questions more urgent now than ever before: From what innocent creature, in what remote landscape, will the Next Big One emerge? Are pandemics independent misfortunes, or linked? Are they merely happening to us, or are we somehow causing them? What can be done? Quammen traces the origins of Ebola, Marburg, SARS, avian influenza, Lyme disease, and other bizarre cases of spillover, including the grim, unexpected story of how AIDS began from a single Cameroonian chimpanzee. The result is more than a clarion work of reportage. It's also the elegantly told tale of a quest, through time and landscape, for a new understanding of how our world works—and how we can survive within it.
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English (40)  Spanish (1)  All languages (41)
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
A very nice, and long, discussion of the zoonoses. The actual information here could be put in one chapter, but the author entertains us with accounts of his field trips, history, biographies of those he met, and assorted diversions. I disliked his occasional use of common terms for bodily fluids and excreta. Sometimes these are clearly meant to be funny, i.e. when feces are called that except in the last line of a paragraph, and overall I suppose they are meant to make the story more acceptable to a broader audience, but they are unnecessary and sometimes inaccurate; do ticks drool?. He also defines the word morbidity as the frequency of illness, which must be an epidemiological definition. That is fine, but the readers who enjoy the mention of piss, etc., might be misled since morbidity is a commonly used word with another definition. The attempt to describe the mathematics of infectious disease transmission is laudable, and he gives quite good summaries of viral taxonomy and interesting conversations with experts about the infectious disease significance of the RNA viruses. ( )
  markm2315 | Jul 1, 2023 |
Libro che ha la “fortuna” di aver “previsto” il COVID-19. Un viaggio nel mondo dei virus piĂč terribili (Sars, Ebola, Aviaria, Aids e diversi altri) raccontato con piglio diretto e semplice, con il tipico, efficace stile di chi trasforma una disciplina in romanzo (mi ricorda Pollan). Libro che ha il merito di renderci edotti su un argomento purtroppo mai cosĂŹ attuale e, soprattutto, di ricordarci che siamo animali parte di una ecologia che abbiamo sconvolto, quindi la responsabilitĂ  di quanto sta accadendo e accadrĂ  Ăš, caso a parte, principalmente nostra. ( )
  d.v. | May 16, 2023 |
A work of science journalism by an author who is a very good writer is a joy to read. Early in the present pandemic we heard expert after expert say we knew this would happen sooner or later, it was just a matter of time. This book is proof that they really did.

Written before COVID19, this book is a thorough exploration of the factors at play in infectious diseases passing from the animal world into human infections. SO much was known SO long before Covid and yet it took the world by surprise. Ominous to hear all these experts interviewed by the author, really frightened by the unknown Next Big One. Now that we're all interested in viruses this book is an important way to fill in the details of how this has happened and maybe what the prospects are for recovery. ( )
  JudyGibson | Jan 26, 2023 |
So well written. Great message. ( )
  btbell_lt | Aug 1, 2022 |
Well researched but not overly academic presentation of of the investigation of zoonotic diseases. I am a clinician and appreciated the references. For general readers interested in developing a deeper understanding of infectious diseases and the factors that lead to spillover, this author has presented science as as well I think it could be presented! For the general healthcare services, outside of the Infectious Disease world, this book is a fairly comprehensive overview of the progressive nature of scientific investigations, findings, and innovations of modern medicine. I also appreciated the author's humility and great appreciation for the field investigators who run in to hot zones and places others fear to tread to satisfy their quest for knowledge that will lessen the human suffering of emerging infectious disease and their pandemic potential which has increased greatly as humans stretch their presence into ancient ecosystems. Well done and highly recommended! ( )
  jmtho1501 | Jan 20, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 40 (next | show all)
Human beings are restless, nosey and aggressive. These characteristics have made us one of the most invasive species our planet has ever encountered and allowed us to colonise nearly every terrestrial environment. During this progress, humans have made many acquisitions, several of them unwanted. Our constant movement between vast, populous cities and novel environments makes us easy prey for opportunistic pathogens that replicate fast, and transmit by sneezes and dirty hands before sickness even begins to show. These pathogens can spread around the world in hours by aeroplane to infect the unsuspecting on another continent. That's how "swine flu" spread in 2009; it was already unstoppable by the time we noticed it. We were lucky it wasn't particularly virulent.....
added by marq | editThe Guardian, Caroline Ash (Oct 11, 2012)
 

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Quammenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Gillam, DaphneMapssecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kidd, ChipCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
-REVELATION 6:8
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again and ever,
to Betsy
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The virus now known as Hendra wasn't the first of the scary new bugs.
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So they ask: "Are we all gonna die." I have made it my little policy to say yes.
Yes, we are all gonna die. Yes. We are all gonna pay taxes and we are all gonna die. Most of us, though, will probably die of something more mundane than a new virus lately emerged from a duck or a chimpanzee or a bat.
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Medical. Science. Nonfiction. HTML:

A masterpiece of science reporting that tracks the animal origins of emerging human diseases, Spillover is "fascinating and terrifying ... a real-life thriller with an outcome that affects us all" (Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction).

In 2020, the novel coronavirus gripped the world in a global pandemic and led to the death of hundreds of thousands. The source of the previously unknown virus? Bats. This phenomenon—in which a new pathogen comes to humans from wildlife—is known as spillover, and it may not be long before it happens again.

Prior to the emergence of our latest health crisis, renowned science writer David Quammen was traveling the globe to better understand spillover's devastating potential. For five years he followed scientists to a rooftop in Bangladesh, a forest in the Congo, a Chinese rat farm, and a suburban woodland in New York, and through high-biosecurity laboratories. He interviewed survivors and gathered stories of the dead. He found surprises in the latest research, alarm among public health officials, and deep concern in the eyes of researchers.

Spillover delivers the science, the history, the mystery, and the human anguish of disease outbreaks as gripping drama. And it asks questions more urgent now than ever before: From what innocent creature, in what remote landscape, will the Next Big One emerge? Are pandemics independent misfortunes, or linked? Are they merely happening to us, or are we somehow causing them? What can be done? Quammen traces the origins of Ebola, Marburg, SARS, avian influenza, Lyme disease, and other bizarre cases of spillover, including the grim, unexpected story of how AIDS began from a single Cameroonian chimpanzee. The result is more than a clarion work of reportage. It's also the elegantly told tale of a quest, through time and landscape, for a new understanding of how our world works—and how we can survive within it.

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