The emergence of strange new diseases is a frightening problem that seems to be getting worse. In this age of speedy travel, it threatens a worldwide pandemic. We hear news reports of Ebola, SARS, AIDS, and something called Hendra killing horses and people in Australia—but those reports miss the big truth that such phenomena are part of a single pattern. The bugs that transmit these diseases share one thing: they originate in wild animals and pass to humans by a process called spillover. David Quammen tracks this subject around the world. He recounts adventures in the field—netting bats in China, trapping monkeys in Bangladesh, stalking gorillas in the Congo—with the world’s leading disease scientists. In Spillover Quammen takes the reader along on this astonishing quest to learn how, where from, and why these diseases emerge, and he asks the terrifying question: What might the next big one be?
About David Quammen
David Quammen is the author of The Song of the Dodo, among other books. He has been honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters and is the recipient of a John Burroughs Medal and the National Magazine Award. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.
The author discusses zoonoses, infectious diseases that originate in animals and spread to humans. The technical term is “spillover.” It’s likely that all infections began as spillovers. Some, like Ebola and lesser-known viral diseases (Nipah, Hendra, Marburg), are highly transmissible and virulent, but so far have been limited to sporadic outbreaks. They persist because they are endemic in a reservoir population through a process of mutual adaptation. Finding that reservoir holds the key to control and prevention and gives Quammen’s accounts the thrill of the chase and the derring-do of field research in rain forests and jungles and even teeming Asian cities where monkeys run wild. The author chronicles his travels around the world, including a stop in a bat cave in Uganda with scientists who found evidence that bats were the source of Marburg and other zoonoses, but not AIDS. Quammen’s AIDS narrative traces the origin of HIV to chimpanzee-human transmission around 1908, probably through blood-borne transmission involved in the killing of the animal for food. Over the decades, with changing sexual mores, an ever-increasing world population and global travel, the stage was set for a takeoff. Quammen concludes with a timely discussion of bird flu, which has yet to achieve human-to-human transmission but, thanks to the rapid mutation rate and gene exchanges typical of RNA viruses, could be the NBO. You can’t predict, say the experts; what you can do is be alert, establish worldwide field stations to monitor and test and take precautions. – Kirkus Reviews
They Are So Beastly, These Ticks and Plagues - ‘Spillover,’ by David Quammen, on How Animals Infect Humans
The New York Times Book Review – October 2, 2012 (Excerpt)
Linguists have a good eye for where language has been, but it’s rarely easy to see into its future. In his powerful and discomfiting new book, “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic,” the science writer David Quammen cites a dismal word we’ll be getting used to in the coming decades, whether we like it or not: zoonosis.
A zoonosis in an animal infection that, through a simple twist of fate, becomes transmissible to humans. Maybe that twist is a needle prick, or contact with an exotic animal or hiking downwind of the wrong farm.
“It’s a mildly technical term,” he admits, but probably not for long. “It’s a word of the future, destined for heavy use in the 21st century.”
Ebola and bubonic plague are zoonoses. So are, he writes, in a list that peals off the tongue like a distraught Allen Ginsberg poem or an outstanding list of death metal band names, “monkeypox, bovine tuberculosis, Lyme disease, West Nile fever, Marburg virus disease, rabies, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, anthrax, Lassa fever, Rift Valley fever, ocular larva migrans, scrub typhus, Bolivian hemorrhagic fever, Kyasanur forest disease, and a strange new affliction called Nipah encephalitis, which has killed pigs and pig farmers in Malaysia.” [Read the full article...]
Breeding Ground - ‘Spillover,’ by David Quammen
The New York Times Book Review – October 19, 2012 (Excerpt)
What a confounding summer it was. At agricultural fairs across the country, people gathered for the simple pleasure of devouring deep-fried Mars bars were coming down with a once-placid pig virus, a variant of H3N2 influenza. Over 300 cases have been confirmed so far, with at least one death. In Texas and elsewhere, pharmacy shelves are shorn of mosquito repellent thanks to the most serious outbreak of a mosquito-borne bird virus — West Nile — the country has ever seen. In Massachusetts, high school football games are being canceled for fear of yet another animal microbe, Eastern equine encephalitis virus, currently stalking the state’s residents.
That is to say, David Quammen’s meaty, sprawling new book, “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic,” arrives not a moment too soon. Animal microbes are on the loose. Historically, some 60 percent of the infections that plague humankind, from influenza to H.I.V. and bubonic plague, originated in the bodies of other animals. (To be fair, like any decent fight, the exchanges go the other way too.) But nowadays, Quammen writes, we are “tearing ecosystems apart,” and animals and humans are rubbing shoulders in novel, unexpected ways. The steady drip of animal microbes spilling over into people quickens. [Read the full article...]
Book review: ‘Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic’ by David Quammen
The Washington Post Book Review – October 19, 2012 (Excerpt)
We kept a bottle of mosquito repellent right next to the back door this summer and made sure the balky screen door was pulled tight each time we came in from the garden. Firing up the grill in the evening called for long sleeves, long pants and proper shoes, not flip-flops.
The mosquitoes in our corner of Washington have always been thick and aggressive. But this year, with the surge in West Nile virus infections, those critters were downright menacing. The precautions we took were familiar: They were the same ones I followed when traveling to far-off tropical locales where malaria-carrying mosquitoes were a danger.
But here, literally in my back yard?
This should be no surprise, according to the tale David Quammen tells in “Spillover,” his highly engaging exploration of animal infections and the perils they pose for people. This year’s West Nile outbreak, the deadliest in the United States since the virus was first spotted in New York in 1999, represents the local front in a perpetual global struggle with what are called zoonotic diseases. These are diseases that cross from animals to humans, and they are the subject of Quammen’s inquiry and his many adventures. [Read the full article...]
‘Spillover,’ by David Quammen
SFGate.Com Book Review – November 5, 2012 (Excerpt)
In 2008, a Dutch woman on a guided trek through Uganda climbed gamely down into a remote, sunken cave – a cave better known for the few indolent pythons underfoot than for the tens of thousands of bats that teemed overhead. For several minutes, she and her party peered into the darkness and breathed the hot, pungent air, as they gingerly stepped across rocks slick with bat guano.
It was 13 days later, back home in the Netherlands, when the woman felt the first flush of illness; soon, her fever climbed, her organs failed, she went into a coma. Her shocking death was traced to a pathogen called Marburg virus: a rare (so far!) infection related to Ebola and harbored in African fruit bats.
David Quammen’s “Spillover” catalogs the terrible and growing list of diseases that pass to humans from animals, and it isn’t only misguided tourists who meet disaster in his grim tale. Australian parrot brokers catch psittacosis from their cockatoos. Bangladeshi climbers of date palm trees frequented by fruit bats contract Nipah virus. Neighbors of goat farms in the Netherlands come down with “Q fever.” [Read the full article...]
David Quammen Talks Life on the Front Lines of Virology
Time Magazine Book Review – October 10, 2012 (Excerpt)
Back in 2003, a new virus that would be called SARS jumped from a bat to a civet cat to human beings, eventually infecting thousands and killing nearly 800 people. That’s just one example of the threat that animal microbes can pose to human beings, and it’s a story that the veteran science journalist David Quammen tells in his new book Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. Quammen spoke with TIME’s Bryan Walsh about the origin of Ebola, the threat of sick animals and some particularly troublesome bees. [Read the full article...]
CRIMSON DAWN Book One of the Darklife Saga by Ronnie Massey
Two Women Hunting A Rogue Vampire
Vampire Valeria Trumaine must confront old demons and face new possibilities as she struggles to bring a rogue vampire to justice. Her best friend and powerful Sidhe princess, Irulan, joins the hunt. Valeria will find that Irulan’s motives for keeping her safe are not what she thinks. And soon she is faced with an undeniable attraction that makes her question everything she knew about herself. [Read More...]
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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