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Author David Quammen Speaking On U Of I Campus Monday

Portrait of author David Quammen

Author David Quammen is speaking on campus today. Photo provided by author.

Author David Quammen is speaking on the University of Illinois campus.  Quammen is the author of the award-winning book “Spillover” about the spread of viruses such as H-I-V and Ebola from animals to humans. His latest book, “The Chimp and the River,” was drawn from “Spillover” and updated to stand alone.  Illinois Public Media's Brian Moline spoke with Quammen and asked him why he calls “The Chimp and the River” the most important and riskiest book he’s written.

"The most important because it's about the ecological origins of the AIDS pandemic," Quammen said.  "Very different than from the idea that it began in the 1980's with some promiscuous Canadian airline steward know as 'Patient Zero.'"

He said it's the riskiest book he's written because he does something in a non-fiction book that he's never done before.

"There's a gap in what science can tell us as to how this virus spread in central Africa," Quammen said.  "so I create a narrative I call 'The Fable of the Voyager.'  I tell the reader very clearly that this is hypothetical."

Quammen also wrote a stand alone book on the Ebola virus that was drawn from "Spillover."  Quammen says the spread of Ebola is still very mysterious.

"It emerges from the forest, and it terrifies people," he said.  "It makes them sick, and it kills people, and then it disappears, sometimes for five years at a time."

Quammen says he plans to talk to students about the connection between humans and the animal kingdom.

"We face a drumbeat of these new, emerging diseases that are coming to us from animals," he said.  "More of these are emerging from diverse ecosystems because people are going in there and disrupting those ecosystems."

David Quammen is speaking Monday at 4pm in the NCSA Auditorium at 1205 W. Clark St., Urbana.