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Spillover Animal Infections An David Quammen

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic Summary

A masterpiece of science reporting that tracks the animal origins of emerging human diseases, Spillover is “fascinating and terrifying … a real-life thriller with an outcome that affects us all” (Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction).

In 2020, the novel coronavirus gripped the world in a global pandemic and led to the death of hundreds of thousands. The source of the previously unknown virus? Bats. This phenomenon―in which a new pathogen comes to humans from wildlife―is known as spillover, and it may not be long before it happens again.

Prior to the emergence of our latest health crisis, renowned science writer David Quammen was traveling the globe to better understand spillover’s devastating potential. For five years he followed scientists to a rooftop in Bangladesh, a forest in the Congo, a Chinese rat farm, and a suburban woodland in New York, and through high-biosecurity laboratories. He interviewed survivors and gathered stories of the dead. He found surprises in the latest research, alarm among public health officials, and deep concern in the eyes of researchers.

Spillover delivers the science, the history, the mystery, and the human anguish of disease outbreaks as gripping drama. And it asks questions more urgent now than ever before: From what innocent creature, in what remote landscape, will the Next Big One emerge? Are pandemics independent misfortunes, or linked? Are they merely happening to us, or are we somehow causing them? What can be done?

Quammen traces the origins of Ebola, Marburg, SARS, avian influenza, Lyme disease, and other bizarre cases of spillover, including the grim, unexpected story of how AIDS began from a single Cameroonian chimpanzee. The result is more than a clarion work of reportage. It’s also the elegantly told tale of a quest, through time and landscape, for a new understanding of how our world works―and how we can survive within it.

About the Author

David Quammen is the author of The Song of the Dodo, among other books. He has been honored with the John Burroughs Medal for nature writing, an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an award in the art of the essay from PEN, and (three times) the National Magazine Award. Quammen is also a contributing writer for National Geographic. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.

Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic Introduction

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

PALE HORSE

The virus now known as Hendra wasn’t the first of the scary new bugs. It wasn’t the worst. Compared to some others, it seems relatively minor. Its mortal impact, in numerical terms, was small at the start and has remained small; its geographical scope was narrowly local and later episodes haven’t carried it much more widely. It made its debut near Brisbane, Australia, in 1994.

Initially, there were two cases, only one of them fatal. No, wait, correction: There were two human cases, one human fatality. Other victims suffered and died too, more than a dozen—equine victims—and their story is part of this story. The subject of animal disease and the subject of human disease is, as we’ll see, strands of one braided cord.

The original emergence of the Hendra virus didn’t seem very dire or newsworthy unless you happened to live in eastern Australia. It couldn’t match an earthquake, a war, a schoolboy gun massacre, a tsunami. But it was peculiar. It was spooky. Slightly better known now, at least among disease scientists and Australians, and therefore slightly less spooky, the Hendra virus still seems peculiar.

It’s a paradoxical thing: marginal, sporadic, but in some larger sense representative. For exactly that reason, it marks a good point from which to begin toward understanding the emergence of certain virulent new realities on this planet—realities that include the death of more than 30 million people since 1981. Those realities involve a phenomenon called zoonosis.

A zoonosis is an animal infection transmissible to humans. There are more such diseases than you might expect. AIDS is one. Influenza is a whole category of others. Pondering them as a group tends to reaffirm the old Darwinian truth (the darkest of his truths, well known and persistently forgotten) that humanity is a kind of animal, inextricably connected with other animals: in origin and in descent, in sickness and in health. Pondering them individually—for starters, this relatively obscure case from Australia—provides a salubrious reminder that everything, including pestilence, comes from somewhere.

In September 1994, violent distress erupted among horses in a suburb at the northern fringe of Brisbane. These were thoroughbred racehorses, pampered and sleek animals bred to run. The place itself was called Hendra. It was a quiet old neighborhood filled with racecourses, racing people, weatherboard houses whose backyards had been converted to stables, newsstands that sold tip sheets, corner cafes with names like The Feed Bin.

The first victim was a bay mare named Drama Series, retired from racing and now heavily in foal—that is, pregnant and well along. Drama Series started showing signs of trouble in a spelling paddock, a ragged meadow several miles southeast of Hendra, where racehorses were sent to rest between outings. She had been placed there as a broodmare and would have stayed until late in her pregnancy if she hadn’t gotten sick. There was nothing drastically wrong with her—so it seemed, at this point. She just didn’t look good, and her trainer thought she should come in.

The trainer was a savvy little man named Vic Rail, with a forceful charm, swept-back brown hair, and a reputation for sharp practice in the local racing world. He was “tough as nails, but a lovable rogue,” Vickie was, by one judgment. Some people resented him but no one denied he knew horses.

It was Rail’s girlfriend, Lisa Symons, who took a horse trailer out to collect Drama Series. The mare was reluctant to move. She seemed to have sore feet. There were swellings around her lips, her eyelids, her jaw. Back at Rail’s modest stable in Hendra, Drama Series sweated profusely and remained sluggish. Hoping to nourish her and save the foal, he tried to force-feed her with grated carrot and molasses but she wouldn’t eat. After the attempt, Vic Rail washed his hands and his arms, though in hindsight perhaps not thoroughly enough.

That was September 7, 1994, a Wednesday. Rail called his veterinarian, a tall man named Peter Reid, sober and professional, who came and looked the mare over. She was now in her own box at the stable, a cinderblock stall with a floor of sand, close amid Rail’s other horses. Dr. Reid saw no discharges from her nose or eyes and no signs of pain, but she seemed a pale image of her robust former self. “Depressed,” was his word, meaning (in veterinary parlance) a physical, not a psychological condition. Her temperature and her heart rate were both high.

Reid noticed the facial swelling. Opening her mouth to examine her gums, he noticed remnants of the carrot shreds that she hadn’t bothered or been able to swallow, and he gave her injections of antibiotic and analgesic. Then he went home. Sometime after four the next morning, he got a call. Drama Series had gotten out of her stall, collapsed in the yard, and was dying.

By the time Reid rushed back to the stables, she was dead. It had been quick and ugly. Growing agitated as her condition got worse, she had staggered out while the stall door was open, fallen down several times, gouged her leg to the bone, stood up, fallen again in the front yard, and been pinned to the ground for her own protection by a stable hand.

She freed herself desperately, crashed into a pile of bricks, and then was pinned again by a joint effort of the stable hand and Rail, who wiped a frothy discharge away from her nostrils—trying to help her breathe—just before she died. Reid inspected the body, noticing a trace of clear froth still at the nostrils, but did not perform a necropsy because Vic Rail couldn’t afford to be so curious and, more generally, because no one foresaw a disease emergency in which every bit of such data would be crucial. Drama Series’s carcass was unceremoniously carted away, by the usual contract hauler, to the dump where dead Brisbane horses routinely go.

Her cause of death remained uncertain. Had she been bitten by a snake? Had she eaten some poisonous weeds out in that scrubby, derelict meadow? Those hypotheses crumbled abruptly, thirteen days later, when her stablemates began falling ill. They went down like dominoes. This wasn’t snakebite or toxic fodder. It was something contagious.

The other horses suffered fever, respiratory distress, bloodshot eyes, spasms, and clumsiness; in some, bloody froth surged from the nostrils and mouth; a few had facial swelling. Reid found one horse frantically rinsing its mouth in a water bucket. Another banged its head against the concrete wall as though maddened. Despite heroic efforts by Reid and others, twelve more animals died within the next several days, either expiring horrifically or euthanized.

Reid later said that “the speed with which it went through those horses was unbelievable,” but in these early moments no one had identified “it.” Something went through those horses. At the height of the crisis, seven animals succumbed to their agonies or required euthanasia within just twelve hours. Seven dead horses in twelve hours—that’s carnage, even for a casehardened veterinarian.

One of them, a mare named Celestial Charm, died thrashing and gasping so desperately that Reid couldn’t get close enough to give her the merciful needle. Another horse, a five-year-old gelding, had been sent from Rail’s place to another spelling paddock up north, where it was sick on arrival and soon had to be put down. A vet up there necropsied the gelding and found hemorrhages throughout its organs. And in a neighbor’s stable on the corner beside Rail’s place in Hendra, at the same time, still another gelding went afoul with similar clinical signs and also had to be euthanized.

What was causing this mayhem? How was it spreading from one horse to another, or anyway getting into so many of them simultaneously? One possibility was a toxic contaminant in the feed supply. Or maybe poison, maliciously introduced. Alternatively, Reid began wondering whether there might be an exotic virus at work, such as the one responsible for African horse sickness (AHS), a disease carried by biting midges in sub-Saharan Africa.

AHS virus affects mules, donkeys, and zebras as well as horses, but it hasn’t been reported in Australia, and it isn’t directly contagious from horse to horse. Furthermore, Queensland’s pestiferous midges don’t generally come biting in September, when the weather is cool. So AHS was not quite a fit. Then maybe another strange germ? “I’d never seen a virus do anything like that before,” Reid said. A man of understatement, he recalled it as “a pretty traumatic time.” He had continued to treat the suffering animals with what means and options he had, given the inconclusive diagnosis—antibiotics, fluids, antishock medicine.

Meanwhile, Vic Rail himself had taken sick. So had the stable hand. It seemed at first that they each had a touch of flu—the bad flu. Rail went into the hospital, worsened there, and, after a week of intensive care, died. His organs had failed and he couldn’t breathe. An autopsy showed that his lungs were full of blood, other fluid, and (upon examination by electron microscopy) some sort of virus.

The stable hand, a big-hearted man named Ray Unwin, who merely went home to endure his fever in private, survived. Peter Reid, though he had been working on the same suffering horses amid the same bloody froth, stayed healthy. He and Unwin told me their stories when I found them, years later, by asking around Hendra and making a few calls.

At The Feed Bin, for instance, someone said: Ray Unwin, yeah, most likely he’ll be at Bob Bradshaw’s. I followed directions to Bradshaw’s stable and there on the driveway was a man who turned out to be Unwin, carrying grain in a bucket. At that point, he was a middle-aged working bloke with a sandy red ponytail and a weary sadness in his eyes. He was a little shy about attention from a stranger; he’d had enough of that already from doctors, public health officials, and local reporters. Once we sat down to chat, he professed that he wasn’t a “whinger” (complainer) but that his health had been “crook” (not right) since it happened.

As the horse deaths came to a crescendo, the government of Queensland had intervened, in the form of veterinarians and other personnel from the Department of Primary Industries (responsible for livestock, wildlife, and agriculture throughout the state) and field officers from Queensland Health. The DPI veterinarians began doing necropsies—that is, cutting up horses, looking for clues—right in Vic Rail’s little yard. Before long there were horse heads lying around, severed limbs, blood and other fluids flowing down the gutter, suspect organs and tissues going into bags.

Another neighbor of Rail’s, a fellow horseman named Peter Hulbert, recollected the gruesome pageant that had transpired next door while serving me instant coffee in his kitchen. As the kettle came to a boil, Hulbert recalled the garbage containers used by DPI. “These street wheelie bins here, there was horses’ legs and heads . . . —do you have sugar?”

No thanks, I said, black.

“. . . horses’ legs and heads and guts and everything, going into these wheelie bins. It—was—horrendous.” By midafternoon that day, he added, word had spread and the TV stations showed up with their news cameras. “Agh. It was bloody terrible, mate.” Then the police arrived too and threw a taped cordon around Rail’s place, treating it as a crime scene. Had one of his enemies done this? The racing world had its underbelly, like any business, and probably more so than most. Peter Hulbert even faced pointed questioning about whether Vic might have poisoned his own horses and then himself.

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Spillover Animal Infections An David Quammen

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Product details:

EditionInternational Edition
ISBN0393346617, 978-0393346619
Posted onSeptember 9, 2013
Formatpdf
Page Count592 pages
AuthorDavid Quammen

Spillover By David Quammen PDF Free Download - HUB PDF

A masterpiece of science reporting that tracks the animal origins of emerging human diseases, Spillover is “fascinating and terrifying … a real-life thriller with an outcome that affects us all” (Elizabeth Kolbert, author of The Sixth Extinction).

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Author: David Quammen

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