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Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic 1st Edition

433 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393066807
ISBN-10: 9780393066807
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Exemplary science writer Quammen schools us in the fascinating if alarming facts about zoonotic diseases, animal infections that sicken humans, such as rabies, Ebola, influenza, and West Nile. Zoonoses can escalate rapidly into global pandemics when human-to-human transmission occurs, and Quammen wants us to understand disease dynamics and exactly what’s at stake. Drawing on the truly dramatic history of virology, he profiles brave and stubborn viral sleuths and recounts his own hair-raising field adventures, including helping capture large fruit bats in Bangladesh. Along the way, Quammen explains how devilishly difficult it is to trace the origins of a zoonosis and explicates the hidden process by which pathogens spill over from their respective reservoir hosts (water fowl, mosquitoes, pigs, bats, monkeys) and infect humans. We contract Lyme disease after it’s spread by black-legged ticks and white-footed mice, not white-tailed deer as commonly believed. The SARS epidemic involves China’s wild flavor trend and the eating of civets. Quammen’s revelatory, far-reaching investigation into AIDS begins in 1908 with a bloody encounter between a hunter and a chimpanzee in Cameroon. Zoonotic diseases are now on the rise due to our increasing population, deforestation, fragmented ecosystems, and factory farming. Quammen spent six years on this vital, in-depth tour de force in the hope that knowledge will engender preparedness. An essential work. --Donna Seaman


“Starred review. ...a frightening but critically important book for anyone interested in learning about the prospects of the world’s next major pandemic.” (Publishers Weekly)

“David Quammen might be my favorite living science writer: amiable, erudite, understated, incredibly funny, profoundly humane. The best of his books, The Song of the Dodo, renders the relatively arcane field of island biogeography as gripping as a thriller. That bodes well for his new book, whose subject really is thriller-worthy: how deadly diseases (AIDS, SARS, Ebola) make the leap from animals to humans, and how, where, and when the next pandemic might emerge.” (Kathryn Schulz - New York Magazine)

“That [Quammen] hasn’t won a nonfiction National Book Award or Pulitzer Prize is an embarrassment.” (Dwight Garner - The New York Times)

“David Quammen [is] one of that rare breed of science journalists who blend exploration with a talent for synthesis and storytelling.” (Nathan Wolfe - Nature)

“Starred review. A wonderful, eye-opening account of humans versus disease.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Starred review. An essential work.” (Booklist)

“[Spillover is] David Quammen’s absorbing, lively and, yes, occasionally gory trek through the animal origins of emerging human diseases.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

“As page turning as Richard Preston’s The Hot Zone… [Quammen is] one of the best science writers.” (Seattle Times)

“[Spillover] delivers news from the front lines of public health. It makes clear that animal diseases are inseparable from us because we are inseparable from the natural world.” (Philadelphia Tribune)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 592 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (October 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780393066807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393066807
  • ASIN: 0393066800
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (433 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,489 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Quammen is the author of a dozen fiction and nonfiction books, including Blood Line and The Song of the Dodo. Spillover, his most recent book, was shortlisted for several major awards. A three-time National Magazine Award winner, he is a contributing writer for National Geographic and has written also for Harper's, Outside, Esquire, The Atlantic, Powder, and Rolling Stone. He travels widely on assignment, usually to jungles, mountains, remote islands, and swamps.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

161 of 168 people found the following review helpful By Rachael Ludwick on September 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The jargon of diseases can be boring, tedious. There are a lot of acronyms and big words. Worse, we often don't know as much as we'd like -- and usually we aren't very certain of what we do know. Telling a good story given those constraints is hard. But Spillover repeatedly provides gripping stories that still impart a good understanding of what we know about zoonotic (animal-origin) diseases. Even better, the author ties disparate stories together to describe some general trend and possible causes for seemingly new infectious diseases. But I don't want to summarize the conclusions: I want you to go read it. You won't be bored and you'll learn a lot (most definitely even if you've read books like The Hot Zone or the Coming Plague).

Some other notes:
* The author has a less human-centric attitude and a lot of sympathy for the animals, like horses or apes, who sometimes are actually the first animal a disease spills over into only to later infect humans.
* He has a wry tone. When noting the euthanasia of a large number of monkeys (even ones likely not infected with a disease), he notes no humans were euthanized despite equal exposure.
* He provides full references. Some of those papers are quite readable by a non-expert such as this review ([...]) of the importance of bats as reservoirs for infectious diseases.
* The stories are often told from the perspective of the scientists trying to figure out what the heck is really going on. The author is also not afraid to explain when scientists just don't know -- and how they might figure it out more.
* The author went on several field collections where he might have been exposed to a disease being investigated.
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67 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Jones on September 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have a science background but not in the biological sciences. Over the years I have followed much of the discussions about HIV/AIDS, SARS, and other outbreaks of infectious diseases in the popular press without being able to put it all together. This book provides that overall view and a status report on our efforts to deal with this ongoing threat. In a few spots there may be more technical information than many may want but it is presented in a way that allows one to move past it without losing the thread of the discussion. The book provides a description of the work done by the professionals on the front line and challenges they face. This is an important subject that we all should all be aware of. The book is well worth reading.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Mulberry on October 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can't recommend this book highly enough. Quammen's writing is vivid yet measured, detailed yet gripping, and he possesses true talent as a narrative non-fiction writer. His ability to explain complex scientific ideas and processes in layman's terms is fantastic, and made this book such a joy to read. Though pandemic disease is often written about in ways that are hysterical and melodramatic, SPILLOVER is not a fear-mongering book.

I also deeply appreciated Quammen's awareness of the animals involved, and his respect and empathy for them. It's subtle but ever-present in his choice of language describing them.

I hope this book is assigned in high schools-- it was so inspiring it made me wish I could do my undergraduate schooling over again and become a scientist.
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51 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Author/Reviewer Geri Ahearn TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Award Winning author David Quammen delivers a brilliant, informative presentation of different animals, explaining clearly in simple terms how a disease spills over from animal to human. Through compelling stories weaved together, the author gives a gripping account of new infectious diseases, different animals in relation to specific diseases, and fascinating science reporting of examinations conducted by scientists. In addition, information reported from extensive research is provided on apes, horses, bats and other animals. The author presents engaging stories as he writes with compassion and sympathy about different diseases and the dangers of spillover. Discussions about outbreaks of infectious diseases are provided, along with information on dealing with ongoing threats. It was extremely interesting to learn about the results of examinations, and progress made by the professionals as they face several challenges. It was also scary to ponder on the growing trend of diseases that spill from animal to human, a major concern is noted while contemplating on why these diseases emerge. Of course, the reader becomes curious about a new outbreak, which makes this intelligent presentation thought-provoking throughout. Interesting, Educational, and Highly Recommended to science lovers!
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Bandula on October 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an extremely well researched and lucidly written book that I was really not able to put down till I completed the full 500 plus pages! It moves well from horse viruses in Australia through Ebola, SARS, Nipah, Hanta, Lyme to AIDS viruses (there are two!), tracking each from the first known occurrence to the location of the animal "reservoir host" and finishes with what may be "lurking" around the corner for mankind. The author still manages to be non-sensationalist and writes so well to give authenticity to all his interviews down to the regional specific English syntax of the interviewee. (I read the recent article in the Wall Street journal about this book written by the author of "Hotzone", the original and excellent book about Ebola, and found the mild criticism offered there about this book generally unwarranted). Recommended to anyone who is interested in human pathogens that originate in animals and from time to time have been the scourge of humankind.
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