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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is not a new-age phenomenon
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...
Published 19 months ago by R. Rajagopalan

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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spillover David Quammen
Overall, a good read. I was a little disappointed by the sketchiness given over to the description of the various diseases discussed, in particular their symptoms and their biological effect upon the victim. Quammen was purposely seeking to avoid sensationalising these emerging zoonotic diseases by including lurid detail but I think he went a little too far in dumbing...
Published 20 months ago by JaimeJ


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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
By 
R. Rajagopalan (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping good science - the next human pandemic?, 3 Nov 2012
By 
M. Hillmann "miles" (leicester, england) - See all my reviews
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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. The work of the well equipped squads sent out from the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Centre in Atlanta, USA and that of the medics, scientists, and government authorities in Chinese, Asian, African and Australian countries is interpreted in a very positive and constructive light.

The common thread in the detection of each epidemic is partly medical and partly ecological. The virosphere encompasses a realm of organisms that dwarf every other group. Many are probably undiscovered. Many stay dependent but benign in their host species. They may kill some monkeys or birds or bats but we do not notice. The viruses, especially those whose genomes consist of RNA rather than DNA leaving them more prone to mutation, are highly and rapidly adaptive. The disruption to the natural ecosystems at a cataclysmic rate due to man's activities seems to be more and more unloosening the microbes from their natural ecosystem into the wider world. Increasing human population density, new bugs, greater interconnectivity with modern transport systems and new sophisticated medical detection systems are part of the explanation for the increase in epidemics.

David Quammen is convinced that the Next Big One will come and kill millions. Read the book to find out his prophecies - it is worth the read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully balanced and exceptionally well-written book, 3 April 2013
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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 (UK) - See all my reviews
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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
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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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5.0 out of 5 stars Very informative and easy to read., 10 July 2014
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This review is from: Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic (Kindle Edition)
Brilliantly written, you dont need to be a scientist to understand and grasp the information in this book. I found this book to be really informative; I definitely have a better understanding of the workings of viruses, bacteria and species cross infection.

It informs without the drama and fear factor of some other books on this subject I have read. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested in this subject!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars For an American total Eunoia, 3 Jun 2014
Brilliantly written - like a murder mystery on places - you want to keep reading - The first book I couldn't wait to finish!!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Stalking the Next Big One, 26 May 2014
By 
Joseph Haschka (Glendale, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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"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 ... better to step back, blow a kiss, and burn the hut." ‒ from SPILLOVER, advice for the wife (to perhaps stock up on matches)

"The door fell, trapping Schwarzenegger plus six others, and all hell broke loose." ‒ from SPILLOVER, trapping macaques in Bangladesh to take epidemiology samples

Who can forget The Hot Zone by Richard Preston published in 1994 and billed as "a terrifying true story" of hemorrhagic fevers? I haven't, and so was immediately drawn to SPILLOVER by David Quammen, subtitled "Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic." I mean, who could resist the photo of the warm and cuddly baboon on the jacket's front (of the U.S. edition)? Besides, we have three cats and I've always suspected the wretched creatures harbor something nasty that'll do us in.

The Next Big One (NBO), in this case, is the next zoonotic pandemic that will wipe out millions of humans. Not if, but when. Sort of like the species-ending asteroid just over the event horizon but sure to hit Earth sometime in the future.

I must admit first-off that SPILLOVER wasn't as riveting as I'd hoped and expected. That said, it contained a plethora of instructive and interesting nuggets, like a cookie filled chock-a-block with chocolate chips (but still not a solid bar of Cadbury Dark). The thing is, the author thrashes about in the jungle of zoonotic disease agents (Hendra, Nipah, Ebola, Marburg, Borrelia, Rickettsia, Plasmodium, SARS-CoV) before ‒ on page 385 already ‒ focusing on the one that he'd apparently intended to showcase all along, HIV-1 group M. The previous three-hundred eighty-four pages are spent necessarily instructing the reader ‒ using real-life outbreaks ‒ on such terms as "infectivity", "transmission", "virulence", and "lethality" and the Herculean efforts that are often required to identify the animal reservoir of a particular agent. Indeed, Quammen makes sure to point out that the reservoir for Ebola has yet to be discovered. (Perhaps it's Fluffy.)

Then, once the author takes up the currently spreading HIV-1 pandemic and discusses the brilliant detective work that has allowed scientists to identify the place (southeastern Cameroon) and approximate time (prior to 1908) that the virus made its leap from an animal to its first human host, he hallucinates (for many pages) a possible scenario whereby a subsequently infected human, his unnamed "Voyager" ‒ a river fisherman, transported the virus out of the jungle interior to a large urban center. Really? In a narrative work of popular science, this seemed to smack too much and unnecessarily of a novel's creative license.

Finally, in SPILLOVER's last twenty-five pages, Quammen asks the experts the ultimate question: What is the Next Big One likely to be? (At this point in the overall discussion, his consideration of the various influenza strains is scarily relevant.) Although there can be no definitive answer to the question, it involves a basic assumption, the thread of which runs through the entire book. It will come about because Homo sapiens is encroaching upon the environments inhabited by the world's other species, and it's not nice to poke Mother Nature in the eye with a stick.

"We shake the trees, figuratively and literally, and things fall out."

Or, said more elegantly:

"Ecological circumstance provides opportunity for spillover. Evolution seizes opportunity, explores possibilities, and helps convert spillovers to pandemics."
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5.0 out of 5 stars Facinating, 17 April 2014
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This review is from: Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic (Kindle Edition)
It kept me interested the whole way through and is very informative. I learned more than I had expected. A most pleasant read
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4.0 out of 5 stars More than you might want to know!, 30 Dec 2013
By 
Jason Mills "jason10801" (Accrington, UK) - See all my reviews
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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 barrier and become a problem for us. Often this will be through human action: butchering a chimp for bushmeat, penning pigs under a tree in which bats roost, letting macaques live in a temple. Whether the new infection exploits its opportunity and becomes a human epidemic depends on a host of factors: our ever more interconnected world increases the peril, but at the same time we are learning more about such diseases and putting in place programmes to manage them.

Quammen goes through a dozen or so diseases, viral and bacterial: Hendra, malaria, Ebola, SARS, H5N1 and of course HIV, among others. Their history and pathology and the scientific responses to each are dealt with in painstaking detail, enriched by direct interviews with the scientists at the sharp end. Nobody delivers information and structures an essay better than David Quammen, but even with such a reliable pilot at the helm, the sheer density of facts on each page of this book is sometimes exhausting. There seems rather less of the colourful travelogue that so enlivened "The Song of the Dodo" and "Monster of God", making for a drier read. Nonetheless, it is massively informative, trenchant and well managed.

A handful of decorated maps are scattered through the book, and it closes with 8 pages of references, a 28-page bibliography, 4 pages of acknowledgements and a 25-page index.
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