The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age
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The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  483 ratings  ·  81 reviews
Dynamic young Stanford biologist Nathan Wolfe reveals the surprising origins of the world's most deadly viruses, and how we can overcome catastrophic pandemics.

In The Viral Storm, award-winning biologist Nathan Wolfe tells the story of how viruses and human beings have evolved side by side through history; how deadly viruses like HIV, swine flu, and bird flu almost wiped...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 11th 2011 by Times Books (first published October 1st 2011)
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An oversimplified view of infectious disease that lacked new information for anyone even moderately well-read in the field, I was disappointed by Nathan Wolfe's book. Wolfe attempted to follow the pattern so often used by infectious disease literature - open with a case study of a real person infected by the disease before transitioning into more depth information on the microbe. However, the opening anecdotes frequently ended up being unconnected to the rest of the chapter. Wolfe then failed to...more
Jenny Brown
It sounds like Wolfe has done some interesting research and is working hard to prevent a new viral pandemic, but if you want the details you'll have to look elsewhere, because this poorly edited, badly written book won't give them to you.

Most chapters start with a punchy description of some poor schnook dying of a viral disease, but we learn almost nothing else about that disease and the rest of the chapter gives us only vague dumbed down overview of some topic that, if you have read anything pu...more
Betsy Curlin
This book seemed more focused on singing the praises of the author and his organization than on actually discussing viruses and their potential consequences.
Tessa Eger
Not all scientists can write. Stanford visiting professor Nathan Wolfe can and does a superb job. Concepts which have been difficult for others to explain flow easily from Wolfe's pen. He brings us up-to-date and shares fascinating situations which show just how complex our world has become.
One of the most important concepts to take away from the book is that there is probably no single disease host or reservoir for any particular disease, as was previously thought. Rather, all species have a...more
This is alarmist baloney. The author either doesn't know what he's talking about or else is deliberately misleading the reader.

Right from the start, for example, on page 9, he writes "H5N1 is important because it kills remarkably effectively. The virus's case fatality rate, or the percentage of infected individuals that die, is around 60 percent. For a microbe, that's incredibly deadly."

The reason this statement is so incredible is because it's not true.

First of all, he has the wrong definition...more
This is a good, easy to read overview of the science of viruses - it doesn't match the page-turning quality of Richard Preston's the Hot Zone, but what does? Nathan Wolf focuses on the science, rather than the stories, of tracking viruses and viral diseases and gives you the basics: what viruses are, how they infect humans (by way of birds and mammals), how viruses extend their range and how he and other scientists are working to catch the next viral epidemic before it wreaks havoc. That section...more
This is a good introductory book for anyone interested in epidemiology, microbiology, and/or evolution. I say "introductory" because it is definitely written for someone with little to no background in biology.

I liked that this book took a much broader view towards disease-causing microbes than a lot of people usually do. By this, I mean there was an emphasis on the evolution and ecology of microbes, as well as the fact that there are many neutral and beneficial things out there (and in us) too....more
Chris Demer
This is a very readable book that is carefully researched. In it Wolfe answers some of the questions about how pandemics begin, why they gain strength and means of preventing them. But the book is much more than that. He weaves primate behaviors, human behaviors and viral outbreaks into a colorful and interesting whole, clarifying in the process answers to the above questions.

First, it is clear that other primates hunt. In doing so, butchering and eating the raw meat of other animals (mainly mon...more
Eric Jay Sonnenschein
The Viral Storm is a fast, informative overview of the human interaction with microbes and infectious diseases. It is a good book to start with if you are interested in epidemiology and the scary possibility of pandemics. Anyone who has kept abreast of the various outbreaks in the past quarter-century will be familiar with much of this information, eg. HIV, Ebola, Avian flu, SARS, etc. but there is also much that is new and interesting, for instance, the appearance of Monkeypox in the remote for...more
There were several things I liked about this book, even though it's not the type of thing I usually read. First, as a science novice, I appreciated the simple explanations of how viruses evolve and function. Learning how viruses jump from animals to humans was fascinating. Wolfe's assertion that perhaps we are overspending on stopping terrorist attacks and would be better served (in terms of protecting human life) by funding more scientific research makes perfect sense. Although his name-droppin...more
Really enjoyed this book. Picked it up after listening to the "Patient Zero" Radiolab episode and watching Contagion a few weeks ago. Really expands on the concepts introduced in Radiolab, with some pretty amazing information about how widespread certain virii are (even though they could be benign), the mechanisms of transmission, and the role of bushmeat as a conduit for microbes to spillover into humans.

Big takeaways - always get tested for rabies if you're bitten by an animal. 100% lethal onc...more
Jan 18, 2014 Holly added it
Shelves: 2012-reads
At first I thought this was too simple, too basic, but I came to appreciate what Wolfe was doing: writing both a primer that gets lay readers up-to-speed and a quasi-memoir in which he recounts some of his own research and pays his respects to his colleagues all over the world (I can see why he's popular in the scientific community and among science-writers/popularizers). To my knowledge there is still nothing out there that replaces Laurie Garrett's The Coming Plague and Betrayal of Trust on th...more
Feb 01, 2012 Meg rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: adult
This is one of the best non-fiction science books I have read. Nathan Wolfe, a biologist, though I think virologist would be more accurate, takes us into the world of viruses and their implications for humanity. His steady pace and even-handed way of presenting the facts makes this a very readable book for a novice such as myself. His explanations of how viruses function, react to one another, mutate, and harness the will of their hosts are easily understandable without being overly simplistic....more
Finding books is like going around in a city and out of the blue you see something that captures you, may be an abandoned puppy. So i found this book just like that. Man i was not disappointed. I was able to finish the book in just half a day.

The book talks about virus and diseased, the science, the current methods and future in a very simple and non condescending manner

A. He talks about virus as though they were people and does a good job on why they do on what they do.

B. He talks about evoluti...more
The Viral Storm by Nathan Wolfe.

Us, viruses -vrii?- and how we met and interacted over the years. Who kills who. Who might kill who. And who do we figure out who will kill next.

The good...

It's a short, interesting read. It does get repetitive (see below) but covers quite a bit of ground. The subject matter is interesting as well, and the author clearly knows what he is talking about and what he wants to impart. He does that well, without sounding alarmist and OMG! The end of the world!

He also ou...more
While it does paint a scary picture of our modern situation as a species, it's not a fear-mongering book. It's respectable on how it covers and weighs the various possible sources of epidemic novelties, and does a good job of showing that reliance on bush meat due to poverty is the key enemy in regions of most-likely-origin, not culture.

Included a nice 101 on the viral nature of humanity, the bulk of mute/defunct viruses our DNA includes.

Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
Jul 10, 2012 Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Snail in Danger (Sid) by: spotted in the library
Shelves: science
Pretty interesting but not overwhelming, if you are already somewhat interested in viruses. Probably just an okay introduction to the subject if you don't already know much about it.

Also there were some usage errors that an editor should have caught. Like not knowing the difference between flair and flare, and an incorrect possessive plural (virus's instead of viruses') early on.
Less provocative than the title would lead you to believe, this book basically is a primer for the microbial world and how viruses jump from one species to another and within species. Probably more fun than your microbiology textbook, laced with anecdotes about chimp research in Africa, etc., but not for those looking for an exciting read about why bird flu will kill us all.
Marc Murison
The author (and, apparently, his editor) is a newbie at the craft of writing. The subject itself is fascinating, and there are many(!) good stories to be told -- if only the author had concentrated on telling them, instead of constantly regaling -- rather, assailing -- us with his own narcissism. By a third of the way through the book, I was extremely tired of hearing about how terribly special he is. Furthermore (and fatally for any author), he makes the same belabored, utterly simplistic point...more
James Neve
This book is currently scaring me to death.... I finally finished it. Thought-provoking... My only random question is why he makes little or no reference to sea-mammals and marine life in terms of bacteria and viruses... Maybe I forgot a chapter, or maybe that's another branch of research.....? I may visit his blog/website and ask.
Great book!
This book was highly repetitive and offered very little new information for anyone who is familiar with the topic of epidemiology and disease. I'm not an expert in the field, but having just accumulated knowledge over time from reading things like Discover magazine and news articles, I found nothing in this book that surprised me with new knowledge.

The author also has an annoying habit of name dropping scientists everywhere and briefly describing how awesome they are (without really saying why,...more
Focuses a lot on the biological and anthropological origins of the AIDS epistemic. Definitely written for the layperson, at times maddening in its simplicity and lack of depth.
Rock Angel
Mar 07, 2012 Rock Angel added it Recommends it for: Does the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research intrigue you?
On one hand, a rambunctious, exhilarating delight; on the other, a little too general after such tantalizing promises. But then, i only finished Ch. 1.

Ch. 3 "the microbe bottleneck" was yet another fascinating read. It might be more aptly titled "the historical bottleneck of microbial repertoire in humans". Again i find the material somewhat repetitive. Maybe the author wants to make this book ultra-readable, maybe I'm just type A, it's not deep 2nough nor fast 2nough for me, my bad.

From Ch. 6 o...more
Ashley Andrada
I may have become a bit of a Nathan Wolfe groupie after seeing him on the Colbert Report last year. I guess if I really wanted to lay my interest in this scientist and his research on thick, I would describe him as the Indiana Jones of the virology world. His continued attempts to pinpoint the provenance of harmful microbes' transmission to humans and, perhaps more importantly, his attempts to forecast where potential pandemics might arise, have definitely piqued my interest in human susceptibil...more
Linda Nichols
Wow! I wasn't really sure I wanted to read this book, and now that I've finished it I'm still not sure I wanted to read it. It is fascinating, frightening, and hopeful. Dr. Wolfe has worked many years in the fields of virology, microbiology, and lots of other "-ologies" and has written a book that should be required reading for everyone. I will no longer shirk my flu shots; even if I'm not afraid of the virus for myself, I will take the shots to protect my family. Of particular interest to me wa...more
Anu Khosla
Just as companies like Google have created a "global nervous system", Nathan Wolfe's goal is to create a "global immune system" through his company, Global Viral Forecasting. The Viral Storm is a journey from the very beginnings of humanity to today. It outlines our relationships with viruses along the way, and the ways in which it has led to the conditions for a perfect viral storm. In the coming age of pandemics we must do everything we can to stop the spread of disease, and GVF is the way to...more
Sherman Criner
Very interesting topic and author seems one of the leading authorities in the field. Very easy read and only regret he had actually gone into ore scientific detail. He did not make morality judgements but addressed things as opportunities or problem solving discussions. I know I am being vague but do not wish to color another's opinions before reading.
An absolutely fascinating book, The Viral Storm is a must-read for anyone who is concerned about the spread of disease and threat of pandemics in the modern age.
Wolfe brings highly scientific information to the masses in a well-written and easily understandable narrative. I was enthralled by how much I learned from this book. Through his descriptions of various microbes, from bacterium to viruses to prions, and the research he describes being done to identify new viruses, Wolfe exposes the need...more
Emmanuel De la paz
Foreboding. While a scientific catalogue of viruses, it's accompanying message is how humanity's general greed and consumption of the planet's resources can lead to an imbalance that could have major repercussions, especially when society encroaches on untouched nature only to drive out and inadvertently mingle with other species which could then lead to a "viral storm". The book's clear message is something along the lines of, "If you mess with nature, nature will bite back...with a vengeance"....more
I suspect if you're just getting into the field of epidemics and disease, you'd give this book a higher rating. It's fairly well-organized, Wolfe's writing is engaging and well-researched, and it's a very...reassuring book. Yeah there's bad shit out there, but don't panic. I like that in a book about pandemics.

I found it covered the material in a very shallow fashion and could get a bit scattered in places. Also, Wolfe mentions by name every single person involved in the research he discusses, w...more
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