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Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus

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In 1976 a deadly virus emerged from the Congo forest. As swiftly as it came, it disappeared, leaving no trace. Over the four decades since, Ebola has emerged sporadically, each time to devastating effect. It can kill up to 90 percent of its victims. In between these outbreaks, it is untraceable, hiding deep in the jungle. The search is on to find Ebola’s elusive host anima In 1976 a deadly virus emerged from the Congo forest. As swiftly as it came, it disappeared, leaving no trace. Over the four decades since, Ebola has emerged sporadically, each time to devastating effect. It can kill up to 90 percent of its victims. In between these outbreaks, it is untraceable, hiding deep in the jungle. The search is on to find Ebola’s elusive host animal. And until we find it, Ebola will continue to strike. Acclaimed science writer and explorer David Quammen first came near the virus while he was traveling in the jungles of Gabon, accompanied by local men whose village had been devastated by a recent outbreak. Here he tells the story of Ebola—its past, present, and its unknowable future. Extracted from Spillover by David Quammen, updated and with additional material.


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In 1976 a deadly virus emerged from the Congo forest. As swiftly as it came, it disappeared, leaving no trace. Over the four decades since, Ebola has emerged sporadically, each time to devastating effect. It can kill up to 90 percent of its victims. In between these outbreaks, it is untraceable, hiding deep in the jungle. The search is on to find Ebola’s elusive host anima In 1976 a deadly virus emerged from the Congo forest. As swiftly as it came, it disappeared, leaving no trace. Over the four decades since, Ebola has emerged sporadically, each time to devastating effect. It can kill up to 90 percent of its victims. In between these outbreaks, it is untraceable, hiding deep in the jungle. The search is on to find Ebola’s elusive host animal. And until we find it, Ebola will continue to strike. Acclaimed science writer and explorer David Quammen first came near the virus while he was traveling in the jungles of Gabon, accompanied by local men whose village had been devastated by a recent outbreak. Here he tells the story of Ebola—its past, present, and its unknowable future. Extracted from Spillover by David Quammen, updated and with additional material.

30 review for Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus

  1. 5 out of 5

    B Schrodinger

    For the last few months now our news cycles have always had a little snippet of Ebola news hidden somewhere between the wedding of George Clooney and a dog that got stuck up a tree. The only visuals are dusty hut, a dirty warehouse that is supposed to be a hospital and some people with paper face masks. And while it seems like a big story, you know that it is being downplayed because it is in Africa, still the dark continent in the 21st century. Yet the story has been there for months. Enough fo For the last few months now our news cycles have always had a little snippet of Ebola news hidden somewhere between the wedding of George Clooney and a dog that got stuck up a tree. The only visuals are dusty hut, a dirty warehouse that is supposed to be a hospital and some people with paper face masks. And while it seems like a big story, you know that it is being downplayed because it is in Africa, still the dark continent in the 21st century. Yet the story has been there for months. Enough for some alarm bells to ring, hey this might be serious. But oh wait, Miley Cyrus just did something. 23305848 Usually by this time I'd be Googling Ebola, or buying a New Scientist with a special set of articles on the subject, but I haven't. But luckily I had a quick browse on NetGalley and came across this book. So I approached this volume hoping that all my curiosities would be quelled; what is Ebola exactly? How is it transmitted? What effects does it have on the body? Where does it hide in it's downtime? Were my questions answered? Not exactly. But through no fault of the author's at all. I had no idea how little we know about Ebola. David starts his new book acknowledging that it is a rehash of a section from his previous book from 2012 'Spillover' that looks at zoonoses or an infection that is transmissible from animal to human. The majority of this book is not new material and is taken heavily from the aforementioned volume, but it has some small sections updated until early September 2014 regarding the new outbreaks. And while cynics will see this as a cash in on a new range of deaths I saw this as being far from it as it was an informative piece of writing that answered all the questions that it could regarding Ebola and introduced me to a writer who I had never read before and will probably go on to read in the near future. The small book takes us through a short history of Ebola outbreaks ever since the first recorded outbreaks in the 1970s. It is also interspersed with a first hand account from David when he traveled through one region that had previously had outbreaks with a biological survey. So not only was the overview of the history of outbreaks fascinating, but it had personal stories from the people affected inbetween. But the most astonishing aspect of the disease is how little is known about it for various reasons. When you have a virus that stays dormant for years in a non-human host, and then sudden outbreaks happen in the most remote places of Africa, where there are minimal survivors, and those that are infected die very quickly you have a very hard virus to study. Not only that but it is one of the most deadly viruses known and studies done with samples in laboratories require large amounts of risk minimisation and therefore large amounts of funding. So while a known set of symptoms are present the exact mechanism of how the virus interacts with the body still requires a great deal of work. It is known to devastate the patients immune system and also cause uneven clotting in the cardiovascular system so that clots appear in some areas while other bleed uncontrollably from the slightest rupture say of a needle. David presents a short volume that is engrossing, horrific and truthful. I have come away with a much greater understanding of the complexities of the situation in these west-African countries and how their political and belief systems are exacerbating the situation. However I also know that the rest of the world could be putting in a greater effort and not dismissing it as yet another plight of the African or having undue panic and believing that it is a sign of the oncoming apocalypse.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kali

    from kalireads.com: Spillover vs. Ebola: Which David Quammen Book Should You Buy? A few months ago, Africa’s Ebola epidemic was the worst in history and infected physicians were being moved to America for treatment. My Facebook feed was filled with trending topics and endless questions about Ebola, and I wrote a post recommending David Quammen‘s enlightening Spillover as the important book of the day. Spillover focuses on zoonotic diseases, those which make the jump from animals to humans in events from kalireads.com: Spillover vs. Ebola: Which David Quammen Book Should You Buy? A few months ago, Africa’s Ebola epidemic was the worst in history and infected physicians were being moved to America for treatment. My Facebook feed was filled with trending topics and endless questions about Ebola, and I wrote a post recommending David Quammen‘s enlightening Spillover as the important book of the day. Spillover focuses on zoonotic diseases, those which make the jump from animals to humans in events called spillovers, thus the title. Ebola is one of these, as are Rabies and Lyme Disease. In Spillover, Quammen clearly weaves an in-depth narrative through rough African terrain, seeking the history of the Ebola virus in small villages and sick apes. Now, as Ebola has made it to America in a less controlled setting, David Quammen has released a second book, called Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus. It is explained as “extracted from Spillover by David Quammen, updated and with additional material.” So, which should you buy? If you’ve already read Spillover, is Ebola worth buying for the additional information? The short answer is: no. If you’ve read Spillover, don’t spend your money on Ebola. You’ve already read it. It is more than 80% of the exact same material, edited slightly so as to not be in discord with current events. If you haven’t read anything yet, however, Ebola has all the information you need on this history of and basic information surrounding Ebola, without all the other zoonotic disease information of Spillover. Ebola contains a new introduction and epilogue that are, as rapidly as things are changing, now out of date. The epilogue does contain a brief history of outbreaks in Africa (Quammen traces them back to December 2013, in the Guéckédou prefecture of Southern Guinea), but it doesn’t contain any information about the events in Dallas. The summaries here are nothing like the research done examining previous outbreaks, and Quammen makes it clear in a disclaimer that he hasn’t traveled to the areas experiencing the epidemics currently. If you want to learn about the Ebola virus and diving into Spillover‘s nearly 600 page, detailed history of zoonotic diseases doesn’t sound appealing, then Ebola is the perfect book for you. It is the ideal book for the non-reader and the person in a rush, as Spillover‘s very long chapters have been broken up into very brief chapters. All the necessary information is there, in digestible bites, in a brief 128 pages.

  4. 5 out of 5

    K.

    Trigger warnings: a metric fuckton of animal death, also some human deaths, medical crises, and discussion of pandemics. This is a tiny little book that's basically an updated chapter from Quammen's previous book about diseases that pass to humans from wild animals. It's a fascinating examination of the history of ebola, as well as the investigation to discover its vector. It's definitely not for the fainthearted, but it was INCREDIBLY interesting and full of random little facts. Exhibit A: 25% Trigger warnings: a metric fuckton of animal death, also some human deaths, medical crises, and discussion of pandemics. This is a tiny little book that's basically an updated chapter from Quammen's previous book about diseases that pass to humans from wild animals. It's a fascinating examination of the history of ebola, as well as the investigation to discover its vector. It's definitely not for the fainthearted, but it was INCREDIBLY interesting and full of random little facts. Exhibit A: 25% of mammal species on the planet are bats. There, that's a thing you know now. You're welcome.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Marjolein

    Read all my reviews on http://urlphantomhive.booklikes.com I like microbiology, as in I like to learn about it (not I like the diseases). For me it's one of the most interesting fields of biomedical sciences. So I've chosen all extra microbiology courses, like Virology and Advanced Microbiology, but did I learn about Ebola? During my first course Microbiology, back in 2013, about two sentences were spent on the subject of Ebola. It's a virus like Marburg in Africa. And, if you get it, it sucks, Read all my reviews on http://urlphantomhive.booklikes.com I like microbiology, as in I like to learn about it (not I like the diseases). For me it's one of the most interesting fields of biomedical sciences. So I've chosen all extra microbiology courses, like Virology and Advanced Microbiology, but did I learn about Ebola? During my first course Microbiology, back in 2013, about two sentences were spent on the subject of Ebola. It's a virus like Marburg in Africa. And, if you get it, it sucks, because you'll die of it. (This was a lesson where at least 20 viruses were discussed, so real depth was impossible, though Ebola was discussed only very briefly). Because during that time, Ebola was still something far away. I doubt many people knew what it was. I was wondering how this book would tackle Ebola, as I was afraid that any information given would be outdated as soon as it could be printed, but the problem is solved quite well: It's not about the recent outbreaks. Instead it gives an overview of earlier outbreaks in Africa and outbreaks of similar diseases like Marburg to help understand the nature of the disease. It focuses on the importance of identifying the animal reservoir of the virus (viruses that are very deadly need to be able to replicate/survive in an animal species without killing that species or the virus would go extinct). Like with birdflu (where we know it's certain birds). Ebola is an extract of Quammen's bigger book Spillover, completely focussed on zoonosis (catching a disease from an animal). I haven't read that book, but reading this part on Ebola made me want to read Spillover as well. What I really liked was the balance in this book. What I find in most (biomedical) non-fiction, is that it is to easy for people who know already about the subject, and not easy enough for people who are new to it. This book was different. It was still very interesting for me, but things where explained very understandably, I believe, for people who only have a very basic knowledge about microbiology. I would recommend. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Two years ago this month was the worst outbreak of Ebola in known human history. What made the 2014 outbreak so different? Ebola has been documented since 1976 (and undoubtedly there were decades of cases before, left unrecorded), specifically affecting small villages throughout central Africa. This time, Ebola made its way into urban centers, bringing the exposure and casualties much higher. This book, excerpted from Quammen's larger work Spillover, and updated to include info about the 2014 ou Two years ago this month was the worst outbreak of Ebola in known human history. What made the 2014 outbreak so different? Ebola has been documented since 1976 (and undoubtedly there were decades of cases before, left unrecorded), specifically affecting small villages throughout central Africa. This time, Ebola made its way into urban centers, bringing the exposure and casualties much higher. This book, excerpted from Quammen's larger work Spillover, and updated to include info about the 2014 outbreak, gives a 'boots on the ground' version of the scientists who are working to fight and prevent another outbreak. The search for the reservoir species is of particular importance: where is Ebola living while not spreading into other species / lying dormant? Countless animals have been tested, and while the silver bullet of a 'live virus inside a species' has not been discovered yet, Quammen and many researchers believe Ebola lives in certain species of bats (edited to add: researched this more and WHO's website says that it has not been truly discovered yet, but bats are suspected) who then feed on fruit, infecting it with saliva and guano, in turn infecting primates who also eat these fruits and/or bats, and come into contact with droppings (or humans who eat bush meat of monkeys who ate the fruit...) The link to bats is further bolstered by the discovery that a similar filovirus, Marburg virus, lives inside this specific species of bat in Central Africa. Quammen's analysis and storytelling are top notch - fascinating and high caliber science writing. 4.5 stars

  7. 5 out of 5

    Philip

    David Quammen's Ebola is basically an updated extraction from his award-winning Spillover, which has long been on my "To Read" list. However, after having read this brief (111 pages) but psychologically exhausting book, I don't think I could handle another nearly 500 pages of similar material, (Spillover is 590 pages). For anyone who's read Richard Preston's The Hot Zone (whose events took place less than 15 miles from where I currently live), Ebola presents a less dramatic but equally spellbindi David Quammen's Ebola is basically an updated extraction from his award-winning Spillover, which has long been on my "To Read" list. However, after having read this brief (111 pages) but psychologically exhausting book, I don't think I could handle another nearly 500 pages of similar material, (Spillover is 590 pages). For anyone who's read Richard Preston's The Hot Zone (whose events took place less than 15 miles from where I currently live), Ebola presents a less dramatic but equally spellbinding and more scientific overview focusing on the history of this horrendous disease, from its initial breakout in the late 70's to its most recent explosion in 2014, (hence the updates, as Spillover was published in 2013). Despite it's dark subject matter, Quammen writes with an elegant and light touch so that the whole book reads like one long National Geographic article. In fact, Quammen does write for Nat Geo, and back in 1999-2000 wrote the excellent 3-part series on Michael Fay's epic 2,000 mile survey across Central Africa eventually known as the "Megatransect," which also plays an important role in this book. As so many writers dealing with life-and-death issues, Quammen occasionally displays a welcome if warped sense of humor: "One animal died, and forty-nine others housed in the same room were "euthanized" as a precaution. Ten employees who had helped unload and handle the monkeys were also screened for infection, but none of them were euthanized." "...If the reservoir is a rodent that lives in the forests of Southwestern Sudan, then the goat herders of Niger can relax. They have other things to worry about." Judging by the titles alone - Natural Acts, The Flight of the Iguana; The Song of the Dodo; Wild Thoughts From Wild Places; The Chimp and the River: How AIDS Emerged from an African Forest; The Boilerplate Rhino: Nature in the Eye of the Beholder; Monster of God : the Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind; The Kiwi's Egg: Charles Darwin and Natural Selection; and his soon-to-be-published The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life - Quammen has had a long and fascinating literary/scientific career, and I look forward to adding a few more of his books to my "To Read" list, (if nothing else than to fill the hole left by the removal of Spillover).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nicky

    This is actually an excerpt from the excellent book Spillover, with a few details added because it was published slightly later, as the ebola epidemic really kicked off. It doesn’t contain anything new that wasn’t in Spillover, and I actually ended up asking for a refund because that wasn’t clear up-front. However, it’s a great excerpt, and I do strongly recommend Quammen’s writing on diseases — just don’t be fooled into getting the excerpts of Spillover instead of just buying the whole book. It’ This is actually an excerpt from the excellent book Spillover, with a few details added because it was published slightly later, as the ebola epidemic really kicked off. It doesn’t contain anything new that wasn’t in Spillover, and I actually ended up asking for a refund because that wasn’t clear up-front. However, it’s a great excerpt, and I do strongly recommend Quammen’s writing on diseases — just don’t be fooled into getting the excerpts of Spillover instead of just buying the whole book. It’s a crafty idea by his publishers, but it’s just annoying. The full book links up the various diseases and expands on themes they share; this mostly comes across from Ebola on its own, but you get a much fuller picture with the rest of the book to refer to. Information: good, packaging: disingenuous. Reviewed for The Bibliophibian.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    There is hardly a more relevant book you could be reading right now. Imagine Michael Crichton at his most thrilling (Jurassic Park, Prey), give him a PhD in evolutionary biology or epidemiology and elevate his writing style to the very heights of journalistic eloquence, and you might have something approaching David Quammen’s brilliance. This is an updated extract from his 2012 book Spillover, where it formed one of the most gripping chapters. (See my full review of Spillover at Nudge.) There is hardly a more relevant book you could be reading right now. Imagine Michael Crichton at his most thrilling (Jurassic Park, Prey), give him a PhD in evolutionary biology or epidemiology and elevate his writing style to the very heights of journalistic eloquence, and you might have something approaching David Quammen’s brilliance. This is an updated extract from his 2012 book Spillover, where it formed one of the most gripping chapters. (See my full review of Spillover at Nudge.)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Charlene

    This is an excerpt from Spillover, with additional information added. If you never read Spillover or if it's been a while since you have, this is a great short book that tells an amazing story of a virus. Quammen is simply the best at writing about pandemics. He provides a rich history along with a solid scientific understanding of the virus in question. In this book, he focuses on Ebola. If you want to know about the many other incredibly interesting viruses waiting to infect people, I highly r This is an excerpt from Spillover, with additional information added. If you never read Spillover or if it's been a while since you have, this is a great short book that tells an amazing story of a virus. Quammen is simply the best at writing about pandemics. He provides a rich history along with a solid scientific understanding of the virus in question. In this book, he focuses on Ebola. If you want to know about the many other incredibly interesting viruses waiting to infect people, I highly recommend Spillover. Quammen's writing style makes even a book about viruses a page turner.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Vicky Hunt

    Why Are Ghastly Diseases So Intriguing? Probably because we have no answers. An exploration of the forms of the Ebola Virus, and its origins and virulence; Quammen's book asks the questions that we still hope to answer about this still mysterious disease. In the process of discussing various outbreaks, he reveals what we know at this point. Covering the gamut of African countries in the path of the virus, he tracks the victims: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda, Gabon, Cote d'Ivoire, Re Why Are Ghastly Diseases So Intriguing? Probably because we have no answers. An exploration of the forms of the Ebola Virus, and its origins and virulence; Quammen's book asks the questions that we still hope to answer about this still mysterious disease. In the process of discussing various outbreaks, he reveals what we know at this point. Covering the gamut of African countries in the path of the virus, he tracks the victims: Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Uganda, Gabon, Cote d'Ivoire, Republic of the Congo, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also follows Ebola outbreaks around the world. He provides statistics and sometimes a bit of humor to balance a grave topic. I read this book for my stop in Gabon on my Journey Around the World in 2019 in the Audible format, narrated by Mel Foster. It is definitely intriguing. And, it is a short, simple read in easy to follow format. My next stops will be Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Uganda, and Rwanda with the following books:

  12. 4 out of 5

    Chrisl

    Fascinating. Here's a quote: "The two men went to work, collecting. They stuffed dead bats into bags. They caught a few live bats and bagged them too. Then, back down on their bellies, they squooched out through the low gap. "It was really unnerving,' Amman told me. 'I'd probably never do it again.' ... "Wait a minute, lemme get this straight: You're in a cave in Uganda, surround by Marburg and rabies and black forest cobras, wading through a slurry of dead bats, getting hit in face by live ones li Fascinating. Here's a quote: "The two men went to work, collecting. They stuffed dead bats into bags. They caught a few live bats and bagged them too. Then, back down on their bellies, they squooched out through the low gap. "It was really unnerving,' Amman told me. 'I'd probably never do it again.' ... "Wait a minute, lemme get this straight: You're in a cave in Uganda, surround by Marburg and rabies and black forest cobras, wading through a slurry of dead bats, getting hit in face by live ones like Tippi Hedren in The Birds, and the walls are alive with thirsty tick, and you can hardly breathe, and you can hardly see, and ... you've got time to be claustrophobic?"

  13. 5 out of 5

    skips

    I went into this book thinking it would be similar to The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, but I was pleased that Quammen takes his own route. His writings give a more practical overview of ebola and its history in a way that is most useful for layman in 2014. He acknowledges the importance of Preston's work in the public's understanding of ebola, but does not try to garner readership through anything other than the facts. This is no thriller novel and I appreciate that Quammen does not fearmonger, I went into this book thinking it would be similar to The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, but I was pleased that Quammen takes his own route. His writings give a more practical overview of ebola and its history in a way that is most useful for layman in 2014. He acknowledges the importance of Preston's work in the public's understanding of ebola, but does not try to garner readership through anything other than the facts. This is no thriller novel and I appreciate that Quammen does not fearmonger, which is so dangerous in these troubling times.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    A highly informative little book. Well maybe not 'highly' but as informative as it is possible to be as we still know so very little about this frightening, horrific virus. David gives us a detailed history of the origins and outbreaks of Ebola and I haven't been so afraid for mankind since reading Richard Preston's The Hot Zone. Highly recommended. April 2020: Originally read in 2014/15 but noticed no star rating and re added. Now looks like I’ve just read it 🥴 A highly informative little book. Well maybe not 'highly' but as informative as it is possible to be as we still know so very little about this frightening, horrific virus. David gives us a detailed history of the origins and outbreaks of Ebola and I haven't been so afraid for mankind since reading Richard Preston's The Hot Zone. Highly recommended. April 2020: Originally read in 2014/15 but noticed no star rating and re added. Now looks like I’ve just read it 🥴

  15. 4 out of 5

    Dee Eisel

    This was given to me as a gift by a friend who knows I love books and bats. It may seem like an odd choice for a gift for people who don’t know me, but it was really thoughtful! And the book itself is thoughtful and informative. Quammen eschews the lurid descriptions of Ebola victims to tell the story of how researchers are seeking more information on the virus and those related to it, and their impact on the outbreak areas. The most heartbreaking part of the book for me is the way that investiga This was given to me as a gift by a friend who knows I love books and bats. It may seem like an odd choice for a gift for people who don’t know me, but it was really thoughtful! And the book itself is thoughtful and informative. Quammen eschews the lurid descriptions of Ebola victims to tell the story of how researchers are seeking more information on the virus and those related to it, and their impact on the outbreak areas. The most heartbreaking part of the book for me is the way that investigators keep finding that areas formerly known to house chimps and gorillas are empty of our closest relatives. I was completely unaware of the toll that Ebola has taken on the great apes, although it makes total sense - we’re so similar that it is logical that the virus would devastate their populations. There aren’t so many left in the world that we can afford to have them killed off in their family groups. But they’re not the reservoir where the virus hides, and that brings up the bats. I am afraid that if we do find that the bats carry filovirii (the family that contains the Ebola strains, Marburg, and Taī Forest germs) that there will be a huge cull of vulnerable species of bats. That said, the work to find the reservoir is important. Many people are trying to figure out what species of animal houses the virus without being killed, so that we can save people (and now the great apes). Many researchers are capturing different species of rodents and birds and bats and trying to find out of there is any link between them and the outbreaks. And many of them are not happy with earlier books on the topic. I personally found “The Hot Zone” to be a cheesy potboiler, and apparently the author was fast and loose with his descriptions of the effects of the filovirii. Over half of the people with these diseases do not hemorrhage, and those that do are not necessarily the ones who die. If all you’ve read is “The Hot Zone,” do yourself a favor and seek out more information. It will both reassure you and sadden you. I loved Quammen’s work! Five of five stars.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Book

    Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus by David Quammen “Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus" is a very interesting behind-the-scenes look at the quest to find the host animal carrying this devastating virus. This brief book is a product of sections of his 2012 book Spillover and recent events. Accomplished author and science journalist, David Quammen takes the reader on a journey through the jungles of Africa in search of the reservoir host. This exciting 128-p Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus by David Quammen “Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus" is a very interesting behind-the-scenes look at the quest to find the host animal carrying this devastating virus. This brief book is a product of sections of his 2012 book Spillover and recent events. Accomplished author and science journalist, David Quammen takes the reader on a journey through the jungles of Africa in search of the reservoir host. This exciting 128-page is broken out into 21 chapters. Positives: 1. Solid science writing. Well researched and engaging. 2. The hot-button topic of the day. 3. Quammen has a good grasp of the topic and writes with skill. It feels more like an action book than a standard-of-the-mill popular science book. 4. Like a good philosopher Quammen asks the right questions and its science’s quest to get the answers. 5. A partial view of the history and science of Ebola. It’s very accessible and focuses more on the quest to find the host. 6. Introduces and explains terms in an accessible manner. “A reservoir host is a species that carries the pathogen, harbors it chronically, while suffering little or no illness.” 7. Does a great job of capturing the difficulties associated with tracking down the sources of viruses and in particular the Ebola virus. “Zoonotic pathogens can hide. That’s what makes them so interesting, so complicated, and so problematic.” Ebola is a zoonosis. 8. Provides many examples of other viruses that shed light on the Ebola virus. “Johnson had helped solve the Machupo crisis by his attention to the ecological dimension—that is, where did the virus live when it wasn’t killing Bolivian villagers? The reservoir question had been tractable, in that case, and the answer had quickly been found: A native mouse was carrying Machupo into human households and granaries.” 9. Provides fascinating facts such as the fatality rates for various infections. Find out the total number of fatalities from the discovery of the first ebolavirus in 1976 through the end of 2012. 10. Explains the different strains of ebolaviruses. “What can be said, though, is that Ebola virus appears to be the meanest of the four ebolaviruses you’ve heard about, as gauged by its effect on human populations.” “IN LATE 2007 a fifth ebolavirus emerged, this one in western Uganda.” 11. Always interesting how religious and cultural beliefs intersect with science. “He found that the predominant ethnic group there, the Acholi, were also inclined to attribute Ebola virus disease to supernatural forces. They believed in a form of malign spirit, called gemo, that sometimes swept in like the wind to cause waves of sickness and death. Ebola wasn’t their first gemo.” 12. Puts Ebola virus in perspective. “If you want a really bloody disease, he said, look at Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever. Ebola is bad and lethal, sure, but not bad and lethal precisely that way.” 13. Describes how the Ebola virus infects the human body. “It’s not very contagious but it’s highly infectious.” 14. Some captivating stories that stand out, Dr. Kelly Warfield. 15. Shows some insight on how science works in the field. 16. How RNA viruses evolve. “Rates of replication and mutation of an RNA virus, differential success for different strains of the virus, adaptation of the virus to a new host—that’s evolution.” 17. Theories on the reservoir host of the Ebola virus. “And the evidence on Ebola virus, though not definitive, as I’ve mentioned, suggests that it too very possibly comes: from bats.” 18. The links between the Marburg and Ebola virus. 19. An excellent Epilogue. 20. Source notes and select bibliography provided. Negatives: 1. Lacked visual material that would have complemented the excellent narrative. A timeline graph would have been very helpful and added value. A chart or table depicting the various viruses and sources are sorely missed here. 2. Not as technical as I would have hoped. I understand that the book is for the masses but an appendix or supplementary material to appease those seeking more info would have been welcomed. 3. Lacked insight on the government institutions responsible to handle these epidemics. 4. Don’t purchase this book if you already own Spillover. It’s basically the same book with some minor updates. This book’s impetus was to take advantage of the high interest of this subject. In summary, a very good brief book on the Ebola virus. If you are looking for an accessible book that reads more like an adventure than a standard pop-science book you have found your match. It’s interesting, engaging and provides some interesting insights on what it takes to track down a reservoir host. Perhaps a bit rushed to take advantage of the interest of the topic and lacking visual supplements but a worthwhile read. I recommend it. Further recommendations: “Spillover” by the same author, “The Hot Zone” by Richard Preston, “The Coming Plague” by Laurie Garrett, “Level 4: Virus Hunters of the CDC” by Joseph B. McCormick and Susan Fisher-Hoch, “The Great Influenza” by John M. Barry, “Killer Germs” by Barry and David Zimmerman, “Rabid” by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy, “A Planet of Viruses” by Carl Zimmer, and “Zoobiquity” by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Real good but disappointingly short.

  18. 4 out of 5

    mkk

    Reads like a grim adventure : fast paced and gripping albeit brief. Amidst the current covid-19 outbreak, it’s essential for everyone to understand spillover of viruses and the causes for it. Will be reading his lengthier book Spillover soon. It’s also interesting to me that we tend to be quite desensitised to epidemics in parts of the globe that are faraway from us and with vastly different living conditions/cultures. The truth is that vigilance must arise early. With high rates of internationa Reads like a grim adventure : fast paced and gripping albeit brief. Amidst the current covid-19 outbreak, it’s essential for everyone to understand spillover of viruses and the causes for it. Will be reading his lengthier book Spillover soon. It’s also interesting to me that we tend to be quite desensitised to epidemics in parts of the globe that are faraway from us and with vastly different living conditions/cultures. The truth is that vigilance must arise early. With high rates of international travel fuelled even more by social media, epidemics can easily become widespread. We are seeing that now. I think when the coronavirus first appeared in China everyone else felt some sort of insulation by the geographical barriers. That was a false sense. Every epidemic must be taken seriously in this age.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Gail Owen

    What little I knew about Ebola had been gleaned from news reports and The Hot Zone, so it was limited and largely inaccurate. Quammen takes a complicated and timely topic and makes it accessible to those of us with limited scientific exposure. This book not only gives historical background of Ebola, but looks at the various methods of trying to find its elusive host animal. While the size of the book limits the topic, it moves quickly and succinctly through the problems that have existed in tryi What little I knew about Ebola had been gleaned from news reports and The Hot Zone, so it was limited and largely inaccurate. Quammen takes a complicated and timely topic and makes it accessible to those of us with limited scientific exposure. This book not only gives historical background of Ebola, but looks at the various methods of trying to find its elusive host animal. While the size of the book limits the topic, it moves quickly and succinctly through the problems that have existed in trying to pin down the whys and the hows of the disease transfer to humans. The book's relevance was demonstrated in today's headline story concerning an individual who apparently has been infected through intimate relations with an Ebola survivor. As Quammen discusses, we still have much to learn about the disease. This book, without the sensationalism and drama of Hot Zone, has allowed me to become more informed and more aware of the problems involved with Ebola.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Terri

    This book is mostly excerpts from the author's book Spillover (which I have in my TBR pile pending still). It has been updated in light of current events. It is an incredibly educational and informative book about Ebola, its history and what is known about the disease. it is an excellent resource for those who want to get to the truth of all these fear-ridden headlines in the news right now. I have read many of the source materials the author used, and found this to be a well thought out and put This book is mostly excerpts from the author's book Spillover (which I have in my TBR pile pending still). It has been updated in light of current events. It is an incredibly educational and informative book about Ebola, its history and what is known about the disease. it is an excellent resource for those who want to get to the truth of all these fear-ridden headlines in the news right now. I have read many of the source materials the author used, and found this to be a well thought out and put together presentation and summation of what we really need to know on the subject. And the best part, is that the author presents the information in a readable and understandable way. HIGHLY recommend.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emmie

    Ebola is a very frightening virus, but unfortunately not the only nightmare worthy one. This book takes you on an interesting journey trying to find the reservoir of Ebola. It is an absolutely fascinating journey through Africa and other parts of the world. I had no idea that some of the viruses mentioned all had the same suspected reservoir in common. I am not giving that away.... you will have to read the book yourself :-) I do have one complaint. Sometimes the journey feels disjointed. There a Ebola is a very frightening virus, but unfortunately not the only nightmare worthy one. This book takes you on an interesting journey trying to find the reservoir of Ebola. It is an absolutely fascinating journey through Africa and other parts of the world. I had no idea that some of the viruses mentioned all had the same suspected reservoir in common. I am not giving that away.... you will have to read the book yourself :-) I do have one complaint. Sometimes the journey feels disjointed. There are many jumps to and fro and it sometimes feels as if you have lost the narrative thread. Otherwise it was a truly fascinating read. It somehow reminds the reader again how fragile we humans are and how easily we can succumb to the exotic and strange.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    Very readable background on zoonotic viruses and particularly the trail of Ebola over the past 50 years. First coming to the attention of scientists I the late 70's, Ebola has popped up in isolated outbreaks in West Africa in the intervening years. There are several genetic strains of the virus, all deadly. Search for the reservoir host continues to this day, as does the exact method of transfer from the reservoir host to humans. The decimation of the gorilla population in those areas where Ebol Very readable background on zoonotic viruses and particularly the trail of Ebola over the past 50 years. First coming to the attention of scientists I the late 70's, Ebola has popped up in isolated outbreaks in West Africa in the intervening years. There are several genetic strains of the virus, all deadly. Search for the reservoir host continues to this day, as does the exact method of transfer from the reservoir host to humans. The decimation of the gorilla population in those areas where Ebola outbreaks occur suggests the virus is deadly to them as well as humans. The author added an epilogue chapter outlining the 2014 outbreak.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    As usual David Quammen delivers without prejudice, his compassionate, factual, well written compendium of what is known and what should be done. This no opus like Song of the Dodo. Rather, it is a timely update on a current crisis. This book is relevant, as all his book so far have been. I am going to place him in an eclectic group - my favorite writers, authors: Doris Lessing, Barbara Tuchman and David Quammen. They speak to the heart of the matter. Bravo.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Award-winning science journalist David Quammen updates his 2012 treatise on the history, study and treatment of the Ebola virus with new 2014 information. Quammen's prose explains scientific terms and methods in an accessible mannor and shows great respect for the people involved in this now-international crisis. Award-winning science journalist David Quammen updates his 2012 treatise on the history, study and treatment of the Ebola virus with new 2014 information. Quammen's prose explains scientific terms and methods in an accessible mannor and shows great respect for the people involved in this now-international crisis.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    I very much enjoyed Spillover. That being said, I was disappointed this book was a copy of the Ebola chapter. I was expecting more than an updated prologue and epilogue. Even those were incomplete seeing they were written early in the outbreak. The lack of new insights made me realize this book was published to take advantage of the Ebola outbreak hype in order to make a buck. Sad.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jane Conrad

    Interesting short history of Ebola virus disease before the 2014 outbreak. If you want a super quick education on previous outbreaks and the search for the reservoir, grab this short read!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Jacob

    David Quanmen book on Ebola is one of the most popular books in my library. It is a short, easy read that traces Ebola back to the first case. A fascinating study in genetic sleuthing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Shana Yates

    Quammen remains a science writer par excellence when covering pandemics and zoonosis. His Spillover remains a masterpiece, covering a wide range of diseases that jump from animals to humans, examining the paths they take, how the diseases evolve and how they impact humans and animals alike, and the scientists and medical professionals who study and combat such diseases. In Ebola (published 2014), Quammen has excerpted the portion of Spillover (originally published in 2012) dealing with Ebola, an Quammen remains a science writer par excellence when covering pandemics and zoonosis. His Spillover remains a masterpiece, covering a wide range of diseases that jump from animals to humans, examining the paths they take, how the diseases evolve and how they impact humans and animals alike, and the scientists and medical professionals who study and combat such diseases. In Ebola (published 2014), Quammen has excerpted the portion of Spillover (originally published in 2012) dealing with Ebola, and updated it with information and events from the intervening years. Namely, this iteration was written in the throes of the 2014 Ebola outbreak (or, more accurately, the 2013 outbreak that managed to spread internationally in 2014). In it, he covers what is known of Ebola, and also what frustratingly remains hidden, including the reservoir species that houses Ebola when it isn't crossing over into primates (from gorillas and chimps, to humans). As he does in Spillover, in this slim volume he spends a great deal of time and thought to the impact this disease has on animals, rather than only caring about the human costs. All in all, an excellent summing up of the history of Ebola, and what we know and what we still have to learn. Even better, for those who have yet to read Spillover, this provides entrée into Quammen's work and should whet the appetite for more.

  29. 5 out of 5

    AngelaC

    This short work is an excerpt from David Quammen's earlier book, "Spillover", this time dealing specifically with ebola. Using language that is easy to understand for a non-specialist, he describes the five types of ebola virus and the outbreaks of ebola across the continent up to the epidemic that gripped West Africa in 2014. He describes the current concerns of researchers. They know that the outbreaks are sporadic because the disease must lie dormant in "host reservoirs" before transmission to This short work is an excerpt from David Quammen's earlier book, "Spillover", this time dealing specifically with ebola. Using language that is easy to understand for a non-specialist, he describes the five types of ebola virus and the outbreaks of ebola across the continent up to the epidemic that gripped West Africa in 2014. He describes the current concerns of researchers. They know that the outbreaks are sporadic because the disease must lie dormant in "host reservoirs" before transmission to humans but they do not know whether the host reservoir is an animal (more likely) or a plant (not totally discounted). Nor do they know what causes the disease to break away from the host. This is a chilling read. The incubation period for the commonest ebola virus is between 2 and 10 days. In these days of fast travel, the danger is obvious. A book I would highly recommend.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Listened to the audiobook at work. Having just finished my degree in Microbiology, I have always been fascinated by virology (and hope to pursue it for my Ph.D.) as well as Ebola. There are just so many questions with some answers still unknown. I enjoyed this for how easy it was to digest and comprehend (no degree required here) because I was able to learn about a topic I love without feeling completely lost like I sometimes am reading scientific articles and papers. I just wish that certain top Listened to the audiobook at work. Having just finished my degree in Microbiology, I have always been fascinated by virology (and hope to pursue it for my Ph.D.) as well as Ebola. There are just so many questions with some answers still unknown. I enjoyed this for how easy it was to digest and comprehend (no degree required here) because I was able to learn about a topic I love without feeling completely lost like I sometimes am reading scientific articles and papers. I just wish that certain topics were more thoroughly explored such as bat immunology and what makes them a good reservoir for many viral pathogens. I also wish they had explored the genetic differences between the various strains of Ebola and if any were more virulent than others due to a major difference in the genome.

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