Nieuws - 14 maart 2013

New diseases


What? Spillover: animal infections and the next human pandemic (Dutch edition: Van dier naar mens)
Who? David Quammen
Cost? 17 dollar

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Scientists as heros: a common image in disaster movies such as Contagion (2011), in which a deadly pandemic sows panic and chaos. At risk to their own lives, researchers track down the source of the disease and develop a vaccine. But that is Hollywood. The book Spillover tells the true story of these scientists and the diseases they fight.
This book is all about zoonoses: diseases that make the leap from animals to humans. It documents outbreaks of diseases such as SARS, Ebola and AIDS in great detail; it explains where they hide if they do not infect any humans, and why one causes a pandemic while another does not. The writer also follows the efforts of scientists to understand these threats. This involved him in helping to catch bats in Bangladesh, marching in a straight line through the African jungle, and tracing the first journey of the HIV virus. The Netherlands is the setting for the story of Q fever, focusing on the recent outbreak in North Brabant and partly told by Hendrik-Jan Roest of Wageningen UR.
Spillover is a stunning book. Scientifically sound and full of stories - most of them straight from the horse's mouth. Readers should be prepared for quite a dose of pessimism and threat. But there is a more cheerful message in the book as well. Just like their Hollywood counterparts, real scientists are constantly trying to figure out how to arm us against the Next Big One.