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Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic [Paperback]

David Quammen
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Aug 2013

First, a horse in Brisbane falls ill: fever, swelling, bloody froth. Then thirteen others drop dead. The foreman at the stables becomes ill and the trainer dies. What is going on?

As globalization spreads and as we destroy the ancient ecosystems, we encounter strange and dangerous infections that originate in animals but that can be transmitted to humans. Diseases that were contained are being set free and the results are potentially catastrophic.

In a journey that takes him from southern China to the Congo, from Bangladesh to Australia, David Quammen tracks these infections to their source and asks what we can do to prevent some new pandemic spreading across the face of the earth.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 592 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (1 Aug 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099522853
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099522850
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 111,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A frightening and fascinating masterpiece of science reporting that reads like a detective story" (Walter Isaacson)

"Quammen has a wide range of knowledge, an agile pen, and a generous heart" (James Gorman New York Times Book Review)

"A tremendous book...this gives you all you need to know and all you should know. Quammen's research and the analysis make sensationalism unnecessary" (Bryan Appleyard Sunday Times)

"Mr Quammen is not just among our best science writers but among our best writers, period...that he hasn't won a non-fiction National Book Award or Pulitzer Prize is an embarrassment... Quammen is a patient explainer and a winning observer, he has a novelistic flair for describing his fellow humans... Quammen, combining physical and intellectual adventure, wraps his canny explorations into powerful moral witness" (Dwight Garner New York Times)

"One of that rare breed of science journalists who blend exploration with a talent for synthesis and storytelling... This is a timely, serious and impressive work that marks the maturation of a field of microbiology" (Nathan Wolfe Nature)

Book Description

A gripping and timely book about the transmission of highly dangerous diseases from animal to human populations.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is not a new-age phenomenon 9 Dec 2012
Format:Hardcover
Zoonotic diseases have been with humanity since time immemorial. However, the recognition of the phenomenon and investigation of the same is a part of modern medical and entomological history. The emphasis on Congo Haemorrhagic Fever in the title and also in some parts of the book should not mislead readers to think that this is something very much part of the millenial angst. Malaria is a zoonotic disease. The plague is a zoonotic disease. Dengue is a zoonotic disease. Japanese encephalitis is also one such. David Quammen has distilled a bunch of facts and presented them in an extremely readable fashion that ultimately argues for a much better understanding of the man-animal ecosystem.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Viruses, that conjure dread, jumping species from animal to man and highly infectious from man to man - that is a Spillover or zoonosis. Virulent, often lethal most recent and of limited spread - Marburg (1967), Lassa Fever (1969), Ibola (1971), Avian Flu (1997), Hendra (1994), SARS (2003), West Nile (1999), Swine Flu (2009) . But some are the Big Ones - Spanish Flu killed 20 million in 1918, HIV accounts for 30 million dead and 34 million infected.

Why are they happening now? Where do they come from? How do they jump species? What conditions lead to their spread?

This is not an alarmist, "end of civilisation as we know it" book. It is informed and balanced but compulsive reading like several detective stories in one. It is rich in the personalities and circumstances of how the epidemics occurred, the stories of the people affected and the race to identify the "reservoir " hosts and the carriers. It is first hand and colourful. David Quammen meets the veterinarians, doctors and nurses who are treating , and often infected by, the dying patients. He goes out with the ecologists and the scientists to search for the reservoir species in the Congolese and Malaysian tropical forests, in the Chinese wild food markets, in the Tanzanian savannah. They take samples for antibody and virus testing from bats , white tailed deer, civet cars, monkeys and chimpanzees - not an easy task. He visits the epidemiologists, virologists. geneticists who wrestle with analysis and interpretation.

David Quammen is very positive and complimentary of the organisations and people involved.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Sophie
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I was worried that this book would be scaremongering, overly-dramatic, and patronising. I needn't have feared! It tells the stories of spillover cases, explains the science behind them and explores the possibilities going forward. It is fast-paced and exciting whilst retaining a human element; i.e. deaths are talked of respectfully. It goes fairly deeply (for a layperson) into the science but manages to hold your hand enough that you can keep up and enjoy the ride.

Best non-fiction book I've read possibly ever.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frighteningly enthralling 2 Dec 2012
By Bluebell TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A rich mix of well-researched scientific evidence and gripping stories of medical/scientific detection that at times seem like a fast-paced novel. Only very occasionally did I feel that the speculative personalization of how a virus jumped from animals to humans was over-done. Fascinating in a macabre way but left me apprehensive about the next catastrophic pandemic.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars science told at its best 24 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Spillover was reviewed in the FT and has more than lived up to their recommendation. If ever there were a justification for government investment in scientific research this is it at its best. David Quammen describes meetings with scientists and medics across the world, joining them on gruelling research treks through African jungle, visiting the scenes of outbreaks wether they are a Dutch town, Hong Kong or an African village and interviewing them at their high bio-security laboratories in Atlanta and elsewhere. It is a convincing story that will be essential reading for many. His factual accounts of the outbreak , identification and subsequent containment of 'killer diseases' are very readable, becoming just slightly more questionable with a postulated scenario for the origins of HIV. Whist this necessarily fictional account, makes perfect sense with a suggested spillover from a single chimpanzee, at the beginning of the 20th century, there is no account given to how the spread of HIV (which takes a long time to manifest itself) might have been previously contained by the vulnerability of those infected to other diseases, particularly smallpox.(or any explanation as to why not).
There is much more to be taken away from reading this book than just science and it is told in a way that is intelligible to anybody with an interest in our societies ability to both solve problems but equally create them. For example who, other than the medics amongst us, are aware that a strain of malaria was used in the early 20th century to offer relief, if not a cure, to syphilis patients who were subject to a form of "pyrotherapy", as the syphilis bug could be killed by the temperature that the malaria induced. Or that the last outbreak of Q fever in 2007/8 was due to a dry spring and the factory farming methods used for goat milk.
This is not a book that should alarm, the story is about life in a crowded world, and an exceptional testament to those who work to keep us safe.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative and easy to read.
Brilliantly written, you dont need to be a scientist to understand and grasp the information in this book. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Adam
5.0 out of 5 stars For an American total Eunoia
Brilliantly written - like a murder mystery on places - you want to keep reading - The first book I couldn't wait to finish!!!
Published 1 month ago by Martin Meads
4.0 out of 5 stars Stalking the Next Big One
"If your husband catches an ebolavirus, give him food and water and love and maybe prayers but keep your distance, wait patiently, hope for the best ‒ and, if he dies ... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Joseph Haschka
5.0 out of 5 stars Facinating
It kept me interested the whole way through and is very informative. I learned more than I had expected. A most pleasant read
Published 3 months ago by Mr. M. C. Gorvett
4.0 out of 5 stars More than you might want to know!
Zoonotic diseases are those we acquire from animals. They typically reside in some other species (a 'resevoir host') doing little harm, but sometimes 'spill over' the species... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Jason Mills
5.0 out of 5 stars Popular science for grown-ups
Some of the ground covered here has been gone over before, but it's a new angle and it takes a thoroughly objective view of its subject matter. Read more
Published 7 months ago by David J. Boggis
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
Even if the reader has no medical/scientific knowledge, it is easily understood but not simplistic. Anyone studying or working with microbes should give this a read.
Published 10 months ago by Gail Ibekwem
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating book for both dummies and pros who are into nasty diseases
This book describes very lively the characteristics and spreading mechanics of different kinds of diseases and epidemias. Read more
Published 10 months ago by hwk
4.0 out of 5 stars Quammen is a great writer
I love David Quammen's nature writing - for this reason I chose this book on infectious disease which wouldn't normally be my cup of tea... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Stuart
4.0 out of 5 stars Culprit: Bats!
Amazing, bats again as harbour of worst human infections.
Fascinating reading about his travels to find out more. Read more
Published 14 months ago by megana
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