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Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  14,131 ratings  ·  1,728 reviews
Ebola, SARS, Hendra, AIDS, and countless other deadly viruses all have one thing in common: the bugs that transmit these diseases all originate in wild animals and pass to humans by a process called spillover. In this gripping account, David Quammen takes the reader along on this astonishing quest to learn how, where from, and why these diseases emerge and asks the terrify ...more
Paperback, 592 pages
Published September 9th 2013 by W. W. Norton Company (first published September 24th 2012)
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Zora in a sense. No one could have said THIS particular virus mutating in THIS particular way, but the general outcome was predicted here. (And 2020's epid…morein a sense. No one could have said THIS particular virus mutating in THIS particular way, but the general outcome was predicted here. (And 2020's epidemic is not likely to be the last--or worst--zoonotic epidemic of this century, as you'll conclude by the end of this.)(less)
Eric Green I think some of it may be a little technical for 10th-graders, unless they have some scientific training. The narrative parts are pretty good, but it …moreI think some of it may be a little technical for 10th-graders, unless they have some scientific training. The narrative parts are pretty good, but it focuses on the origins of zoonotic diseases. I'd recommend the teacher read it before assigning it.(less)

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Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of diseases, outbreaks, animals, public health, travel
2020 Update: Well, here we go, 2020 Covid pandemic. Don't say David Quammen didn't tell you so. And check out the comments below from 2016. Highlights:

I thought the topic might give me heebie-jeebies, but it mostly didn't, except when it comes to traveling to China, Bangladesh or West Africa. Or working in a disease research lab.


I do think SARS was scary as a healthcare provider because it seemed to circumvent standard isolation and had a high fatality rate.

David Quammen is prescient. He appe
Jeffrey Keeten
”’Spillover’ is the term used by disease ecologists to denote the moment when a pathogen passes from members of one species, as host, into members of another.”

How does that happen?

”All it required was a mango or water apple tree, laden with ripe fruit, overhanging a pigsty. An infected bat feeds on a water apple, discarding the pulp, which is besmeared with virus; the pulp drops down among the pigs; one pig snarfs it up and gets a good dose of virus; the virus replicates in that pig and pass
Petra-X is getting covered in Soufriere ash
Update At first I thought this book was so relevant to the present coronavirus pandemic crisis in the world, but it's not really as the one thing the book doesn't discuss is what if an animal illness - a bat one, as so many are - is modified or experimented on in a laboratory and it infects a person, who then is patient zero and infects the world? The laboratory connection is not mentioned at all, and therefore the book is not so prescient as many people think, unless you subscribe to the wet ma ...more
Mario the lone bookwolf
Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I guess I won´t ever take a duck, bat, or cute little monkey as a pet after reading this book. Ok, the ape would be pretty illegal too.

A similar question I kept continually asking myself while reading this: Could it once spread to pets like dogs and cats and back to humans again who infect a bird that infects a bat that is eaten by a wild dog who bites a human etc. Isn´t that an endless circle with possible catastrophes around each corner, even without human intervention such as antibiotic resi
Oct 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Hannah Greendale
May 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Click here to watch a video featuring this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Jan 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"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 known 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 in Spillover: Animal Infections ...more
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology
Quamman explores zoonotic diseases, infectious diseases caused by pathogens that “spillover” from animals to man. The pathogen may be a virus, bacteria or parasite. Zoonotic diseases include well known ones like Ebola, Lyme disease, SARS, and AIDS, lesser known ones like Hendra virus, Marburg virus and Q fever, and ones just being recognized as zoonotic such as some forms of malaria. Zoonotic diseases require a reservoir animal, an animal that sustains the virus without serious complications. Re ...more
Greta G
Feb 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dr. Pol, VP Pence
Dr. Jan Pol is a practicing veterinarian in rural Michigan and the star of the National Geographic TV Series “The incredible Dr. Pol”.
He is also guilty of not meeting required minimum standards of veterinary care, and negligence. He doesn’t carry out surgery in a sterile environment, wear surgical gloves, a gown, a mask, and a cap during surgery.
I watched a few episodes and was appalled by what I saw, for instance during an assisted calving. He was probing with his bare arms in a cow’s birth c
Elyse  Walters
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One does not need to be a science wiz to understand or enjoy this book.
Author David Quamman spills the beans on how disease spreads.

The original emergence of the virus ‘Hendra’, didn’t seem very dire or newsworthy unless you happened to live in eastern Australia.

In September 1994, a violent distress erupted among horses in a suburb at the north fringe of Brisbane.
The place itself is called Hendra.... a quiet neighborhood filled with
racecourses, racing people, weatherboard houses whose backy
Michael Perkins
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Something important that got lost in the political dust storm in 2020 was the scientific need to act fast. The motto is "early detection, early action" No two of these zoonotic diseases are alike. No one knows how they will behave once they enter the human population. You err on the side of caution.

Something that has emerged lately is what is being called Long Covid, the chronic health problems people have after they get out of the hospital. (See links below)


“Spillover” is the term us
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
I find solace in knowledge.
In research.
In science.
In realizing (again) that history is a teacher.

Reading a book about pandemics during a pandemic might not work for everyone, but I find comfort in realizing that shit has happened many many times before and it will happen again and again.

I like to remember that we, as humans, are animals, and no matter what we do, we are not infallible.

Our own hubris is and always will be our biggest downfall.

I like to remember that science and research can sav
May 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Might be beating a dead horse—or preferably not, considering the horse-borne Hendra virus that kickstarts this book—to sing my praises now for Quammen’s masterwork. An investigation into zoonoses (i.e., animals’ diseases that jump into humans), hitting all the big names from bloody Ebola to body-ravaging HIV and AIDS, Spillover also prioritises the narrative impulse over the encyclopedic, laying down each disease’s fascinating story but moreover tying them all together into a larger and frankly ...more
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, animals
See my review on Booktube. ...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
Woman Reading
3.5 ☆
If you're a thriving population, living at high density but exposed to new bugs, it's just a matter of time until the NBO arrives.

Published in 2012, Quammen's Spillover updated and built upon Garrett's work in The Coming Plague, which was released 18 years earlier. His primary concern is the same as Garrett's, and that is the inevitable arrival of the Next Big One (or NBO).
Zoonotic pathogens can hide. That's what make them ... so complicated, so problematic.
Ecological disturbance
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Anna by: carol.
This is informative, interesting and entertaining. Parts of it read as a detective story, as the author describes the quest to identify pathogens, and the routes that can lead those pathogens to cause human disease. The approach encompasses the ecological as well as the evolutionary factors that lead to zoonotic diseases.
As I read, I took copious quotes from every chapter. As David Quammen says it much better than I can, I am going to copy some of them here. I will use spoiler tags for my summar
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
Mar 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Overall: This book is an absolute masterpiece. Epic in scope, brilliant in how it is all connected, very relevant to today, and extremely eye opening and illuminating. Not an easy read but absolutely worth it! 10/10

“When a pathogen leaps from some nonhuman animal into a person, and succeeds there in establishing itself as an infectious presence, sometimes causing illness or death, the result is a zoonosis.”
Much of this story is detailing Quammen's adventures and research following vario
Apr 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I came here to understand Sars/Covid, but I learned a whole lot more! It's a fascinating book with so much rich information. And then a kicker at the end--maybe we humans are the pandemic. ...more
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
Jun 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
Spillover is popular science written by a master storyteller, a book that reads like a pre-emptive 'I told you so'. There are sections which are as compulsively page-turning as thrillers, eyes glued to the page as you watch the desperate race to understand and contain the spread of assorted deadly viruses. It is all so horrifyingly relevant. Easily the best book I've read on pandemics, both entertaining and informative. It has me convinced that the worst is yet to come.

ARC via Netgalley
reading is my hustle
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
Camelia Rose
"When a pathogen leaps from some nonhuman animal into a person, and succeeds there in establishing itself as an infectious presence, sometimes causing illness or death, the result is a zoonosis." The event of such leap is a spillover.

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic is a well-researched book. David Quammen is not an armchair researcher. He visits scientists and doctors allover the world, from Africa, Australia to Southeast Asia, and takes part in the actual field work. T
Oct 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Hendra is a virus. It made its first known appearance in 1994, killing seven horses in less than twelve hours. It also killed the human trainer who tried to help the dying horses. Eventually, the Hendra Virus was traced to flying foxes and their droppings, which happened to fall upon horses taking shade under trees sheltering the virus-shedding bats.

A zoonotic disease spills over into humans from a nonhuman animal. There are six types of spillover pathogens:

1. Viruses (Flu, HIV, Covid-19)
2. Bact
Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Ctgt by: carol.
They remind us, as St. Francis did, that we humans are inseparable from the natural world. In fact, there is no “natural world,” it’s a bad and artificial phrase. There is only the world. Humankind is part of that world, as are the ebolaviruses, as are the influenzas and the HIVs, as are Nipah and Hendra and SARS, as are chimpanzees and bats and palm civits and bar-headed geese, as is the next murderous virus-the one we haven’t yet detected.

Informative and enlightening. And you don't need to be
May 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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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

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