Montana State University

David Quammen to give March 26 lecture at MSU about Ebola

March 5, 2015 -- MSU News Service

David Quammen, author of “Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus,” will speak Thursday, March 26, at Montana State University. Photo by Lynn Donaldson.

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
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Award-winning science writer David Quammen recently published a new book about the Ebola virus and the disease it causes, and he will give a free public lecture about it at Montana State University. 

Quammen will speak on “Ebola and Beyond: Scary Viruses in a Globalized World” at 6 p.m. Thursday, March 26, in Ballroom A of MSU's Strand Union Building. A reception and book signing will follow. Tickets are not required, but RSVPs are encouraged. 

A Bozeman resident and former Wallace Stegner Professor in Western American Studies at MSU, Quammen published “Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus” last fall in response to public and media bewilderment about the disease, after circumstances became more severe in West Africa. Quammen drew on material from his compendious 2012 book, “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic” to assemble this new little volume, adding a fresh introduction and an epilogue devoted to recent events.

Since last November, Quammen has made two additional trips to Africa, researching a story for National Geographic on the search for Ebola’s reservoir host – that is, where does it hide, in what other creature, when it’s not killing humans? At the MSU lecture, he’ll discuss that unsolved mystery, as well as Ebola in a broader context as one among many viral diseases facing humanity in the coming age.

“The 2014 epidemic of Ebola virus disease in West Africa is unlike any Ebola event ever seen before,” Quammen said. “In fact, as of this writing, it’s already 30 times larger in terms of case fatalities – 30 times more punishing to Africans, 30 times more scary and befuddling to people around the world – than any single outbreak of an ebolavirus (there are five kinds) during the previous known history of the disease.

“The peculiarly unfortunate circumstances that allowed this outbreak to simmer for months, and then explode in the three countries first affected, included weakened governance after decades of civil turmoil, inadequate health care infrastructure, shortage of trained health care workers and simple barrier-nursing supplies, population density and poverty in the capital cities, suspicion of Western medicine, and traditional funerary practices,” Quammen said.

Quammen added that Ebola has fallen out of the news cycle in the U.S., but the epidemic still continues in West Africa, killing more people every week. 

“Until it is totally extinguished in those three countries, no one is safe—and no one is off the hook,” Quammen said.

Quammen has written many books, including “The Reluctant Mr. Darwin,” and “The Song of the Dodo.” He has been published in several national magazines and won numerous awards. “Spillover,” for one, was a finalist for seven awards and received two of them: the Science and Society Book Award given by the National Association of Science Writers, and the Society of Biology (UK) Book Award in General Biology.

Quammen was educated at Yale University and Oxford University, and has lived in Montana since 1973. He has received honorary doctorates from MSU and Colorado College.

For more information, go to http://www.davidquammen.com/.

Contact: Anne Cantrell, (406) 994-4902 or anne.cantrell@montana.edu