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The Next Big One

USA | Saturday, 13 June 2020 | Views [52]

Spillover — the Next Big One

Spillover — the Next Big One

I AM ABOUT HALFWAY THROUGH SPILLOVER: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic by David Quammen, a writer I have followed for years in National Geographic and Outside Magazine.  He is no slouch when it comes to topics scientific and Spillover may have been his most prophetic work.  Sadly, it was written in 2012, eight years before the scenario he warned of became reality.  Eight wasted years, as it turns out, that have resulted in over 400,000 deaths worldwide.  And counting.

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             There's a kind of hush all over the world

In Spillover Quamman describes the spread of diseases that are transmitted between animals and humans — horrors like Ebola, plague, rabies and SARS.  Of particular concern is the NBO — the Next Big One.  In 2012, he didn’t know that the NBO would be called Covid-19.

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             Wasn't someone supposed to be watching?

Scientists who study these things knew that coronaviruses should be high on the watchlist because (as Quamman explains in detail) they mutate often and evolve rapidly.  Politicians, however, tend to be reactive, not proactive.  And the public — unaware, indifferent and penurious — isn’t keen to fund “what ifs.”

So here we are.  Over 2,000,000 cases with nearly 120,000 fatalities and a president who just doesn’t get it.  It could be worse, though.  Much worse.  If something like airborne rabies becomes the Next Next Big One . . . .

 

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