A masterpiece of science reporting that tracks the animal origins of emerging human diseases.
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?
From BooklistStarred Review Exemplary science writer Quammen schools us in the fascinating if alarming facts about zoonotic diseases, animal infections that sicken humans, such as rabies, Ebola, influenza, and West Nile. Zoonoses can escalate rapidly into global pandemics when human-to-human transmission occurs, and Quammen wants us to understand disease dynamics and exactly what’s at stake. Drawing on the truly dramatic history of virology, he profiles brave and stubborn viral sleuths and recounts his own hair-raising field adventures, including helping capture large fruit bats in Bangladesh. Along the way, Quammen explains how devilishly difficult it is to trace the origins of a zoonosis and explicates the hidden process by which pathogens spill over from their respective reservoir hosts (water fowl, mosquitoes, pigs, bats, monkeys) and infect humans. We contract Lyme disease after it’s spread by black-legged ticks and white-footed mice, not white-tailed deer as commonly believed. The SARS epidemic involves China’s wild flavor trend and the eating of civets. Quammen’s revelatory, far-reaching investigation into AIDS begins in 1908 with a bloody encounter between a hunter and a chimpanzee in Cameroon. Zoonotic diseases are now on the rise due to our increasing population, deforestation, fragmented ecosystems, and factory farming. Quammen spent six years on this vital, in-depth tour de force in the hope that knowledge will engender preparedness. An essential work. --Donna Seaman
Review“This is a frightening and fascinating masterpiece of science reporting that reads like a detective story. David Quammen takes us on a quest to understand AIDS, Ebola, and other diseases that share a frightening commonality: they all jumped from wild animals to humans. By explaining this growing trend, Quammen not only provides a warning about the diseases we will face in the future, he also causes us to reflect on our place as humans in the earth's ecosystem.” (Walter Isaacson, author of *Steve Jobs* )
“Starred review. …a frightening but critically important book for anyone interested in learning about the prospects of the world’s next major pandemic.” (Publishers Weekly )
“David Quammen might be my favorite living science writer: amiable, erudite, understated, incredibly funny, profoundly humane. The best of his books, The Song of the Dodo, renders the relatively arcane field of island biogeography as gripping as a thriller. That bodes well for his new book, whose subject really is thriller-worthy: how deadly diseases (AIDS, SARS, Ebola) make the leap from animals to humans, and how, where, and when the next pandemic might emerge.” (Kathryn Schulz – *New York Magazine* )
“That [Quammen] hasn’t won a nonfiction National Book Award or Pulitzer Prize is an embarrassment.” (Dwight Garner – *The New York Times* )
“David Quammen [is] one of that rare breed of science journalists who blend exploration with a talent for synthesis and storytelling.” (Nathan Wolfe – *Nature* )
“Starred review. A wonderful, eye-opening account of humans versus disease.” (Kirkus Reviews )
“Starred review. An essential work.” (Booklist )
“[Spillover is] David Quammen’s absorbing, lively and, yes, occasionally gory trek through the animal origins of emerging human diseases.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer )
“As page turning as Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone… [Quammen is] one of the best science writers.” (Seattle Times )
“[Spillover] delivers news from the front lines of public health. It makes clear that animal diseases are inseparable from us because we are inseparable from the natural world.” (Philadelphia Tribune )