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

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  1,635 ratings  ·  338 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
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
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
Nov 08, 2012 Emily rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
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...more
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...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...more
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...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...more
Rebecca Foster
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 mundane th...more
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...more
Great science writers make me so happy (and jealous). Quammen explores what we know so far about zoonosis (infectious disease transmitted between species), especially as it affects the human species. Spillover.

What makes this such an engrossing read is that Quammen grounds all of the science in stories - of places, people, animals - without demonizing any element in the fascinating chain of events that happen when a spillover occurs. Bacteria and viruses are evolving to survive as well.

He cover...more
Quammen's book Spillover is a book that those who enjoy reading nonfiction especially about science will really love. I liked this book. It was fascinating reading. I am sure washing my hands a lot more frequently now, but have not started wearing a mask.

Spillover reads almost like a collection of mystery stories. He discusses various diseases that have moved from animals to humans and explains the scientific detective work that went into to finding the method of transmission to humans. Among t...more
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
I like germs. I like to read about them, see where they are spreading according to websites devoted to germs, and even hope to work in infection control when I get done with school. All that said, I have to add that I only like other people's germs, not ones that get me or my kid or my dog. So I found this book pretty terrifying because while it debunks some of the more dramatic symptoms of various illnesses I have read about lately (people don't really liquify from Ebola) it forces me to think...more
"A zoonosis is an animal infection transmissible to humans. AIDS is one. Influenza is a whole category of others. Pondering them as a group tends to reaffirm the old Darwinian truth ... that humanity is a kind of animal, inextricably connected with other animals: in origin and in descent, in sickness and in health. Pondering them individually, provides a salubrious reminder that everything, including pestilence, comes from somewhere." This brilliantly written book, part science, part travel, par...more
Jan 23, 2013 Carl rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Everyone but the most squeamish
I’m a long time fan of David Quammen’s books and articles on natural history, which is a key part of the story of modern zoonoses. And as a physician I have a professional interest in zoonoses. Here in one book is an interesting combination of virology, some bacteriology, ecology, evolution, natural history, and clinical medicine.

I can’t give it 5 stars for a few reasons. It’s too long. Yes, there are many interesting diseases and stories about them, but there’s too much magazine style reportin...more
Jessica Donaghy
What will be the next pandemic? The next HIV, deadly influenza, or something worse that we can barely imagine? David Quammen convincingly argues that the greatest bugaboo for the human race should be a zoonosis, an infectious disease that spills over from an animal population into humans. He travels around the world and talks to scientists who have worked in the virus-riddled trenches of HIV, malaria, Ebola, SARS, and an ever-growing list of other nasties with shocking fatality rates.

Quammmen made this nonfiction story a riveting read. Its pages were unbelievably loaded with details about zoonotic diseases. And if you don't know what zoonotic means, I'd strongly recommend you find out soon. Your life may depend on it.
The chapter "The Chimp and the River" traces the virus that eventually mutated into AIDS back to 1906 and in Camaroon, through the Congo, into Haiti and the U.S. carried along much of the way by nonsexual transmission. I can go on forever about the incidents and...more
Robert Davidson
Excellent book by a very articulate Author who knows his Subject. Reads like a series of Detective Novels except these incidents are all true. At present there is another outbreak of Ebola in Central Africa which shows the concern we all should have because you never know where the next Outbreak will happen. The good news is there are a lot of very bright dedicated people working hard to avoid a Pandemic.
Sure, vampires and zombies are scary. But it’s fake blood. So I picked up this science book for the sake of a real scare. Now finished, I’m surprised but pleasantly so. After 500 pages of pandemics—where they begin and where they might strike next—I feel “smarter” more than I do “horrified.” Don’t get me wrong: in this book, there’s nightmarish and despairing stuff about humanity’s lot, and the impact of our activities and runaway growth. But it’s delivered with little reimagining (And the Band...more
Spillover is the term for when a virus jumps from one species to another...think influenza, HIV, Hanta, Ebola.... This is a very readable telling of the background of several viruses that have made the jump. He explores the origins of them, how they spread among humans, the search for information by scientists, and the outlook for the future. One technique really makes a difference in this book: makes it more than just a dry history of these viruses. At each stage we meet the people involved in...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
David Quammen, a very good writer, investigates the possible source of the next great pandemic. He weakens the book by making incessant asides to the reader ("Don't worry, I had a hard time understanding the math involved myself.?" That kind of thing. It's pretty annoying.) If you're interested in virology and global health issues, Laurie Garrett's "The Coming Plague", written almost 20 years ago covers much of the same ground and is much better journalism. Quammen's last chapter, a bravura piec...more
A fascinating, slightly scary science read. Describes in detail how some of our most well known diseases - SARS, ebola, HIV, and even influenza made there way from animals into people. Also raises some interesting questions about what we could do to make these spillovers less likely and delay or prevent the next "big one".

The book was very readable and even made me laugh out loud in parts. Gets a little graphic in parts describing symptoms and ways people eat chimpanzees, but that just makes th...more
Bobby newman
A must read for any biology geek. I wish all of my science text books were written in this format. Spill over views viruses and other microbes that can be transmitted from animal to human in a scary all to real reality. This book is filled with fun facts about potential hazards lurking around every corner and in the animal walking around it. I give this book a four star rating due to some explanations get a little lengthy. Over all I recommend this book to lovers of biological science, and those...more
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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 (Great Discoveries) 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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“People and gorillas, horses and duikers and pigs, monkeys and chimps and bats and viruses: We’re all in this together.” 0 likes
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