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Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic
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Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

4.23 of 5 stars 4.23  ·  rating details  ·  4,136 ratings  ·  577 reviews
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 tran ...more
Hardcover, 1st edition, 587 pages
Published October 1st 2012 by W. W. Norton (first published September 24th 2012)
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You have to understand. I have my phobias. So it makes for awkward social encounters. Like: “Mommy,” said the little girl in the elevator, “Why is that man holding his breath the whole way down from the 16th floor?” I have been known to say things like, “Will you please stop sneezing in the direction of my beer?” I went to a doctor’s office a few years ago. Nothing ultimately serious, but possibly so, so that I went for the quickly scheduled appointment even though I was already nursing a bad co ...more
Jan 15, 2015 Carol. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of diseases, outbreaks, animals, public health, travel

David Quammen is prescient. He appears to have predicted the 2014 Ebola outbreak and country jumping years before it happened. Alright, maybe he isn’t a diviner; maybe he merely pays attention to the scientists around him. After all, there’s a reason he is has been given an Academy Award in Literature and is a three-time winner of the National Magazine Award. Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic explores the science behind human pandemi
Full disclosure first, I'm a fan of this type of non-fiction. Laurie Garret - The Coming Plague, Richard Preston - The Hot Zone, Randy Shilts - And the Band Played On... the list goes on and on. I love this stuff. But having said that, this is truly the best thing I've ever read on the subject of infectious agents spilling over from their host species into humans. Brilliant, readable and absolutely spell-binding, Quammen's description of mutation, illness and the effect of human encroachment int ...more
Disclamer: I received this book from the Goodreads First Reads Giveaway program.

I'm very grateful that I did. I happen to be a physician, specializing in Public Health and Preventive Medicine. I work in an environment where epidemiology underlies everything I do. Therefore, I feel that I can give an especially educated evaluation of this book.

The first thing I would like to comment on is the cover. It's an eye-catching blurred photograph of a screaming mandrill. Everywhere I carried the book (wh
Sep 28, 2013 David rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to David by: Tony
A "spillover" occurs when a microbe crosses over from an animal to humans, as an infectious disease. David Quammen describes many examples of this: SARS, ebola, HIV, influenza, marburg and hendra.

Each chapter is a detective story--scientists, veterinarians and medical researchers are detectives searching for the source of a disease. The source is usually a reservoir--an animal that carries the microbe, but is not usually harmed by the microbe.

And--now here's the best part--Quammen is not a stay
Pure class from beginning to end - the best science journalism I've read.

It was completely coincidental that I read this just before the 2014 Ebola outbreak... but that did sort of reinforce why this is essential reading!

Plenty of other goodreads reviews have given superb summaries of the content of the novel, so I'll only touch on that briefly - but here's why I personally loved it:

I originally put this on my long-list as research reading. There's a novel I want to write (one day!) that is set
Parker F
This book was an exciting and informative tour of zoonotic diseases, but the fragmented style diminished my enjoyment. Quammen practices an annoying form of gonzo journalism in which he needlessly inserts himself into the narrative because he is too lazy to do otherwise.

There are numerous throwaway chapters that are included for no other reason than because Quammen made a trip or did the interview. For instance, many pages are devoted to the unenlightening tale of a scientist who accidentally p
Is it possible to "really like" a book like this? I think I may have shortchanged this book with the three star rating. Hmmm.

But I digress.

It is official- I now know too much. Most of us have probably spent some amount of time thinking about a pandemic. How could we not? Reading this book will not ease said fears. It is unsettling to read how easy it is for an infection to *spillover* (sorry) from animal to human. This book reveals just how easy it is and gives you enough information to scare t
Thrilled to see that David Quammen had a new science book, I snatched this up. It’s been 15 years since his book "Song of the Dodo” about island biogeography, which remains at the top of my favorite non-fiction.

Can one *enjoy* a book about infectious disease? Anyone who's read Richard Preston's “The Hot Zone” will guiltily admit, yes (interestingly, he takes Preston to task for overplaying descriptions of Ebola infection. “Bleeding out" is not accurate.)

There is inherent narrative drama in the
This is a book about zoonoses, diseases that come to humans from other animals. It is scary, sure, because there are always new microbes out there ready to go rampaging through our vast society. It is also rather comforting, both the methodical search for vectors and reservoirs, the details of transmission and treatment, the stream of breakthroughs that enable researchers to locate and sequence. And through it all, Quammen maintains a casual, light conversational tone, reassuring the reader that ...more
I found this book fascinating. When I originally got it out of the library, some of my friends were a biiiit concerned that given my GAD was health-focused, this would just make me have a panic attack. I'm happy to report that I was simply happily curious, digging around with great enthusiasm, stopping to google things, etc.

In terms of the level this is at, it's perfectly comprehensible to anyone, I would say. Granted, I do have a background in reading plenty of popular science, an A Level in bi
I try not to read books that make me paranoid or hypochondriac — and that's not the intention of this book — but I'll think twice next time that I'm in some exotic place and close to wild animals. The Monkey Forest in Bali was mentioned in this book in relation to herpes B (a deadly disease caused by a spillover from macaques monkeys to humans). Thanks goodness I feel a visceral revulsion towards monkeys. I didn't hand-feed any or let them climb up my head and shoulders so that I can take a pict ...more
This book is about zoonoses--illnesses that spread from animals to people. It describes the typical process: the virus or bacteria lives, long-term and harmlessly, in a reservoir species. When it infects an amplifier species, it can spread more quickly to humans. For example, the Hendra virus has its reservoir in flying foxes (large Australian bats), but when it infects horses, it can spread to people, who are in much closer contact with their sick horses than with bats.

Not only are zoonoses th
I found this book to be absolutely fascinating and I could not put it down. Essentially, the author makes it his mission to demonstrate how the ecological footprint of the human race profoundly affects the exposure to and infection by new and deadly viruses.

For anybody who enjoyed reading The Hot Zone or watching the movie Outbreak, this book is right up your alley. The author takes us through many different viruses, providing the history behind their development, the story of their outbreak, a
I would call this book a zoonotic companion to The Coming Plague. Quammen embarks on an incredibly ambitious effort in this book and I would say he does an excellent job. His science writing is easy to understand and he doesn't shy away from difficult concepts. His ebola chapter, considering the current outbreak, was quite sobering. In my opinion this book is a must for public health students.

This book is supposed to be readable to a general audience. This means Quammen did a lot of expository
This book is a gripping tale of disease “spillover” that will thrill those interested in science – and probably many who aren’t. After all, we all get sick occasionally. Quammen looks at the ways pathogens (usually viruses) have spilled from animals to humans. He traces the origins of, among others, Ebola, SARS, bird flu, Lyme disease, and AIDS. These zoonotic diseases can escalate rapidly into global pandemics when human-to-human transmission occurs.

For five years Quammen trailed scientists in
Rebecca Foster
(4.5) This exposé of zoonoses (diseases passed from animals to humans) is top-notch scientific journalism: pacey, well-structured and entirely gripping. Although it’s a rather sobering topic, this is not scare-mongering for the sake of it; indeed, Quammen frankly concludes that we are much more likely to die of heart disease or fatal car crashes: “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 much more mund ...more
A fascinating topic made frustrating by a flippant and awkward tone throughout. While I learned quite a bit (the information about bats as carriers is quite interesting), Quammen's tone is almost too casual, and his diversions into sarcastic observations are unnecessary. I'm not a scientist, and I know this book is written for the layperson, but a slightly more professional tone would have kept me more involved. As it is, I'm likely to recommend his book, but with the warning that the tone might ...more
"A zoonosis is an animal infection transmissible to humans. There are more such diseases than you might expect. AIDS is one. Influenza is a whole category of others. Pondering them as a group tends to reaffirm the old Darwinian truth (the darkest of his truths, well know and persistently forgotten) that humanity IS a kind of animal, inextricably connected with other animals; in origin and in descent, in sickness and in health." This is what David Quammen preaches is Spillover: Animal Infections ...more
“We should appreciate that these recent outbreaks of new zoonotic diseases, as well as the recurrence and spread of old ones, are part of a larger pattern, and that humanity is responsible for generating that pattern. We should recognize that they reflect things that we're doing, not just things that are happening to us.”

This book is quite dense, filled with scientific jargon and detail, and it's over 500 pages, which does not add up to an easy read. The author attempts humor, and attempts to
Spillover is a chilling tale of the ecology of zoonotic viruses, viruses transmitted from animals to humans - yes, we are (sometimes very much) a part of that ecology. Reading Spillover while the largest outbreak of Ebola (the subject of chapter II) in history was raging through West Africa certainly lent added poignancy and urgency to Quammen's alarming supposition that the human population explosion and the resultant increase in human encroachment into wildlife areas will have disastrous effec ...more
Mal Warwick
Where Do "Emerging Diseases" Emerge From?

AIDS, Ebola, Marburg, SARS, H5N1 — every one of the world’s scariest diseases is a “zoonosis,” that is, a virus harbored by animals and transmitted to humans, often by other animals, in a complex minuet that often stretches out into decades.

AIDS, for example. According to the latest research, reported by David Quammen in Spillover, Patient Zero was not that French-Canadian flight attendant you may have read about who went amok in the 1970s but a hunter in
Yet another incredibly fascinating book from one of my all-time favorite authors, David Quammen. This book is about zoonotic viruses, meaning viruses that "spillover" from animals to humans. Many of these are familiar to all of us: HIV, Ebola, SARS, influenza, etc., although some are less well known. These (and many, many others) all trace their origins to species other than humans. Some of the most common "reservoirs" of these diseases are primates, bats, and birds, and the way in which viruses ...more
A book about zoonotic diseases (animal infections transmissible to humans), and how they arise, their past and present, and how they might be (well actually, will almost certainly be) the source of the next great pandemic.

This book was impressively well-researched, well-structured and well-written. Not dry at all. In fact, much of the time it was as if the author was having a conversation with you. It's an inherently interesting topic, and it was executed well. There's a lot of information here
In Spillover, David Quammen takes care to avoid some of the wild-eyed panic-mongering of other books on pandemics, but reality is stark and threatening enough. His accounts of a number of zoonotic outbreaks, from Ebola to malaria to more obscure diseases like Hendra, delve into both the history and science of epidemiology. Smart without being obscure, it kept my interest as it explored how diseases erupt from animals to humans, and ways people have investigated those diseases. Fascinating stuff.
Simone Subliminalpop
Sempre molto interessante (“Il cavallo verde”, “Tutto ha un'origine”, “È virale”, “Dipende...”), spesso avvincente come qualcosa a metà strada tra un romanzo d'avventura e il thriller (“Tredici gorilla”, “Una cena alla fattoria dei ratti”, “Ospiti dal cielo”, “Gli scimpanzé e il fiume”), qualche volta, poche per fortuna, un po' noioso nel perdersi in troppi nomi, ruoli, cifre e date (“Il cervo, il pappagallo e il ragazzo della porta accanto”).
This book was a pleasant surprise for me. it was a gift and probably not a book i would have bought for myself. As a microbiologist familiar with a lot of the history of zoonotic diseases, I assumed this book would be full of a lot of dates, places and microbial facts. It has its share of those things but what made it a great read for me is that the author approached each microbial spillover as a mystery story in which he personally went to interview major participants both scientists and non sc ...more
Quammen is one of the best science writers alive today. He displays both his skills for capturing the personal and explaining complex subjects here, but both are somewhat buried by the amount of research that has obviously gone into this work. I felt that a book half the length could have more effectively conveyed Quammen's main points without causing me to skip over pages and pages of rather dry descriptions of RNA analysis or disease-investigation timelines. However, I now know to stay away fr ...more
This is the best science writing I've read in a long time. Quammen writes with clarity, precision, irony and even humor about a most-unfunny topic. He brings to life everyone involved in zoonotic diseases, from the researchers, to the doctors, to the patients and survivors. There's nothing sensational about his writing, but it's a gripping story.

His conclusion? Zoonotic diseases teach us to see ourselves as part of the world - as inextricably linked to the creatures, multi-celled and single-cel
I worry about illness a lot. Coughing kids spewing germs, public bathrooms and airplanes are all harbingers of doom and sickness as far as I'm concerned and should be avoided as much as possible. I wash my hands often and for at least 30 seconds at a clip, and almost never leave the bathroom without kicking in the door rather than touching the handle.

That being said, I am also fascinated by the study of diseases, its origins and treatments. As a child, I used to read the Merck Manuel cover to co
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David Quammen (born February 1948) is an award-winning science, nature and travel writer whose work has appeared in publications such as National Geographic, Outside, Harper's, Rolling Stone, and The New York Times Book Review; he has also written fiction. He wrote a column called "Natural Acts" for Outside magazine for fifteen years. Quammen lives in Bozeman, Montana.
More about David Quammen...
The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions The Flight of the Iguana: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind Natural Acts: A Sidelong View of Science and Nature

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“Alternatively, anyone who favors Intelligent Design in lieu of evolution might pause to wonder why God devoted so much of His intelligence to designing malarial parasites.” 4 likes
“Sir Peter Medawar, an eminent British biologist who received a Nobel Prize the same year as Macfarlane Burnet, defined a virus as “a piece of bad news wrapped up in a protein.” 2 likes
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