Viral Ecology Explained: A Review of David Quammen's Ebola

As I've written before one of the most fascinating aspects of infectious diseases to me is the fact that an infection is an intricate interplay between a host, a microorganism, the surrounding environment and, in many cases, a vector (e.g. an insect) or a reservoir species (e.g. bats). The concept viral ecology is often used to capture this interaction. 

Ebola is a paradigmatic disease that encompasses all of the above. With Ebola Virus Disease you have humans getting infected in specific geographic regions after some sort of contact with an as yet discovered reservoir species or an intermediate host such as an ape.  

David Quammen's Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus, released last fall, is a great guide to the viral ecology of Ebola. The book is an expansion of an extracted portion of his 2012 tour de force Spillover.  

What Mr. Quammen does in this short book is masterfullyweave together the various threads of Ebola research that began in 1976 when its first outbreaks were recognized. Covering such topics such as the geography of Ebola outbreaks, the search for reservoir hosts, the impact on the gorilla population, and--my particular favorite aspect--why/when/where Ebola outbreaks occur. The book also contains a valuable epilogue that places the current West African Ebola epidemic in context--an essential requirement for understanding how this outbreak exploded to its current unprecedented stature.

Mr. Quammen is a gifted story teller and his treatment of infectious diseases is unrivaled. I am eagerly looking forward to reading and learning from his latest book The Chimp and the River, which is focused on arguably the most prolific infectious disease killer: HIV.