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An audacious search for answers amid more than a century of data, The Chimp and the River tells the haunting tale of one of the most devastating pandemics of our time. David Quammen is the author of The Song of the Dodo, among other books. Quammen is also a contributing writer for National Geographic.

He lives in Bozeman, Montana. Douglas A. Feldman, one of the country's leading specialists in international and domestic AIDS social research, and Julia Wang Miller, a research consultant, have selected documents and provided explanatory introductions to them to help readers gain a deeper understanding of the sociocultural ramifications of AIDS.

Each chapter contains an introductory narrative overview of the topic, brief explanatory introduction to each document, and list of suggested readings. A glossary of terms and an AIDS resource directory of organizations to contact for further information complete the work. This important documentary history belongs on the shelves of every public school and college and university library. Finally, it looks at where HIV came from; early reactions to the disease and the social stigma it engendered; the cultural impact of HIV-positive role models; and the global economic, population, and political effects of this illness.

The Chimp and the River (How AIDS Emerged from an African Forest)

In 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. 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. The next big human pandemic—the next disease cataclysm, perhaps on the scale of AIDS or the influenza—is likely to be caused by a new virus coming to humans from wildlife. David Quammen has tracked this subject from the jungles of Central Africa, the rooftops of Bangladesh, and the caves of southern China to the laboratories where researchers work in space suits to study lethal viruses.

Spillover reads like a mystery tale, full of mayhem and clues and questions. When the Next Big One arrives, what will it look like? From which innocent host animal will it emerge?

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The event was an encounter—presumably a bloody encounter, a predator-prey interaction—between one human and one chimpanzee. The chimp happened to be carrying a blood-borne virus, which scientists much later have labeled SIV—an insidious thing, a retrovirus, slow-acting, with enormous potential to replicate, persist, and cause harm in the right host meaning the wrong host, from our point of view , if it could blunder its way into such a promising situation.

I explain all this in the book. Forget about that Canadian airline steward, Gaetan Dugas, about whom you may have heard or read. From there, that single man, that moment, that mishap, the fateful strain of HIV spread through global humanity, like a bucket of blood flowing down a tile stairway.


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The Chimp and the River tries to tell this story accurately, humanely, vividly, in the dimensions of history and ecology and imagination , as the most dire and consequential of scientific detective tales. Maybe that gambit works; maybe not. The Chimp and the River.

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Wild Thoughts from Wild Places. The Flight of the Iguana. Blood Line. The Soul of Viktor Tronko.