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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. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Science journalist/author Quammen (The Reluctant Mr. Darwin, CH, Jun'07, 44-5638; Monster of God, CH, Feb'04, 41-3448) delivers an intriguing narrative describing zoonotic diseases that result when pathogens "jump" from animals to humans. The text is rich with personal field experiences, vivid commentary on the search for reservoir hosts, and descriptions of ecological disruptions that play a role in the transmission of these diseases. Nine chapters engage the reader in a journey that is compelling, gripping, and informative without being sensational. The author understands complex scientific research and interprets research findings in a perceptive and measured way. This is a well-researched, insightful book that provides a framework for understanding the interplay of biological, cultural, and ecological forces that contribute to "spillover" diseases. The clear, powerful text presents a unique opportunity for a wide readership to understand the science behind many of the exotic epidemics. Numerous notes and bibliographic citations; user-friendly index. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty, general readers, and public health officials. D. C. Anderson Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
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Zoonoses, most simply described as diseases transmitted from animals to humans, include exotic horrors like Ebola and far more common ailments such as influenza, HIV, and Lyme disease. Vividly describing the work of field biologists and laboratory scientists, Quammen (The Reluctant Mr. Darwin: An Intimate Portrait of Charles Darwin and the Making of His Theory of Evolution) takes readers on a series of journeys, including tracking gorillas in the jungles of Gabon and catching bats on the roof of a Bangladeshi warehouse. The researchers he interviews note that as human populations continue to grow, they will inevitably move into habitats with unfamiliar, dangerous microorganisms, and as international travel becomes more popular and more efficient, those microorganisms can be transmitted faster and farther than ever before. -VERDICT For a shorter, more humorous consideration of some of the same issues (and diseases), consider The Chickens Fight Back: Pandemic Panics and Deadly Diseases That Jump from Animals to Humans by David Waltner-Toews. Quammen's is a compelling and quietly alarming book; recommended for readers interested in biology, medicine, or veterinary science. [See Prepub Alert, 4/16/12.]-Nancy R. Curtis, Univ. of Maine Lib., Orono (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*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.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist