Zoonosis (noun, zoh-uh-noh-sis): Any disease of animals that can be transmitted to humans.
Linguists have a good eye for where language has been, but it’s rarely easy to see into its future. In his powerful and discomfiting new book, “Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic,” the science writer David Quammen cites a dismal word we’ll be getting used to in the coming decades, whether we like it or not: zoonosis.
A zoonosis in an animal infection that, through a simple twist of fate, becomes transmissible to humans. Maybe that twist is a needle prick, or contact with an exotic animal or hiking downwind of the wrong farm.
“It’s a mildly technical term,” he admits, but probably not for long. “It’s a word of the future, destined for heavy use in the 21st century.”
That’s from Dwight Garner’s New York Times review of David Quammen’s new masterpiece of science writing, Spillover. Later in the review, Mr. Garner notes that:
Mr. Quammen is not just among our best science writers but among our best writers, period. That he hasn’t won a nonfiction National Book Award or Pulitzer Prize is an embarrassment.
David Quammen will be on Reddit today fully prepared for you to ask him anything. He’ll be taking questions at 2pm (est).