NPJ Book Review: Spillover, Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen (2012)

Scientists have been sending out warnings for decades about the origins of infectious diseases and resulting pandemics and plagues. This introductory yet detailed work was published eight years ago after the author spent years in researching. Pandemics are not new. Their ancient. Our scientific understanding increases with more knowledge and empirical experience.  Still the surprising aspect is how unprepared countries are and mostly for willful political and economic reasons.

Preparation costs money but not as much as the cost of care and healing afterwards. The tragedy is found in both arrogance and ignorance.  In this case the author’s approach is objective and doesn’t delve in the politics of leadership but rather the causes and future possibilities of emerging viruses.

This book has the taste of a thriller. And within today’s context imminently more frightening.  This work reveals how small the world is through human mobility and from a virus perspective it’s borderless.  The book is appropriate for understanding the spillover of viruses from the animal kingdom and the resulting experience. The 21st century will be witness to more severe pandemics and human suffering – climate change aside.

This is one of several books on the subject that offers an intriguing narrative of viruses emerging from the animal kingdom – the spillover.

One can only imagine the implications of laboratory generated viruses.

The challenge in enduring and resolving a pandemic is recognizing that pandemics will be part of our future and the human objective is to be prepared. It’s not a matter of whom gets credit for developing a response. The ludicrous amount of  money made off the suffering of others can be overwhelming.  Compassion – through preparation – planning, education, literacy and the medical wherewithal, political/economic will and tools to handle whatever virus arrives on our global doorstep. Pandemics transcend nationalism. 

This book is another warning. There are other warnings being written today,. The current pandemic of Covid-19 was known about last year in which the United Nations warned humanity. How shall we prepare for the future? And under what form of leadership? How many warnings must be made for humans to take notice?