"[Mr. Quammen] is not just among our best science writers but among our best writers, period." —Dwight Garner, New York Times
The next big human pandemic—the next disease cataclysm, perhaps on the scale of AIDS or the 1918 influenza—is likely to be caused by a new virus coming to humans from wildlife. Experts call such an event “spillover” and they warn us to brace ourselves. David Quammen has tracked this subject from the jungles of Central Africa, the rooftops of Bangladesh, and the caves of southern China to the laboratories where researchers work in space suits to study lethal viruses. He illuminates the dynamics of Ebola, SARS, bird flu, Lyme disease, and other emerging threats and tells the story of AIDS and its origins as it has never before been told. Spillover reads like a mystery tale, full of mayhem and clues and questions. When the Next Big One arrives, what will it look like? From which innocent host animal will it emerge? Will we be ready?
Quammen (The Song of the Dodo) is a masterful writer who adroitly blends science and journalism, speculation and fact, as well as horror and humor in his latest tour de force. He traverses the globe exploring cases in which animal-borne diseases somehow jump to humans, often with devastating consequences. This cross-species transmission of disease the spillover of the book s title has happened for the 200,000 years modern humans have been present on the earth, but the frequency and consequences of such events have been increasing dramatically in recent years. According to Quammen, diseases of this sort are responsible for the death of more than 29 million people since 1981. And, as he explains so well, these diseases represent the unintended results of things we are doing. Environmental destruction, burgeoning human populations, increased mobility, and extremely different patterns of food production are all part of his story. Quammen is adept at describing the epidemiology, anthropology, and molecular biology of SARS, AIDS, Ebola, and a host of other frightening maladies. His profiles of researchers, both in the lab and in the field, are every bit as compelling as are his descriptions of those unlucky enough to catch one of these dreadful diseases. This is a frightening but critically important book for anyone interested in learning about the prospects of the world s next major pandemic.