Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

Reviewed by Daniel Morris and Kelly Dunning, Auburn University

What should we have known about runaway pathogens before the COVID-19 pandemic started?

Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, by David Quammen, W. W. Norton & Company, 2013, 592 pp.

Terms like zoonosis and spillover seem to be common in our lexicon these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. David Quammen published Spillover in 2012, long before the pandemic, painting a detailed picture of how the diseases make the leap, or spill over into human hosts. Reading more like a scientific thriller than a textbook, Spillover points out all of the conditions and warning signs that were missed in the lead up to the 2020 pandemic. Traveling around the globe to sites of historically significant zoonotic events, Quammen shines a light into the interaction of humans, wildlife and their environments (that are being changed on a daily basis) to provide the starting point for the spread of new diseases. Quammen shows how easily ordinary lives can be turned upside down by a handful of runaway pathogens taking deep dives into cases like Ebola and the Hendra viruses. Excellent insights are provided into the way that human disturbances of the environment play a role in the process of spillover, often with fatal results. After reading, you will find yourself ever more conscious of the connection between humans, wildlife and health. Even more salient today, Spillover is a masterpiece at allowing even casual readers a glimpse into the world of disease ecology and its importance moving into the 21st century.

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