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This is a wonderfully techy book while being very easy to read. The horrid new diseases which have come to humanity this last century are traced to their sources by boots-on-the-ground scientists. David Quammen, a writer for National Geographic, is close behind these scientists in their quests to find the cause of these new threats to humanity. Sometimes he is with them, crawling through caves in Africa filled with thousands of bats, zillions of insects, scores of poisonous snakes and oh yes, ebola. Sometimes he’s in the swamps of Bangladesh, netting bats with Nipah, sometimes in the jungles of Cameroon catching chimpanzee piss and shit loaded with SIV, which turns out to be nearly identical to human AIDS and probably its source. This is risky business!
This isn’t a book of idle armchair speculation. This is a book by and about people who dedicate their lives to finding the real causes of the plagues of humanity. It is careful and dangerous work, where a slip of a needle or the thrashing of an animal can bring on an agonizing death to these people. This is the cutting edge of science where a tiny cut can be fatal.
Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen is a series of detective stories, linked by the common theme of human pandemic. All of these new diseases are carefully tracked and documented, and the people involved are noted for their dedication and self-sacrifice.
This isn’t a book that will scare you, but it is one which will make you much more cautious about exposing yourself to disease.
Spillover is 500 pages of scientific detective work at its most fascinating.