National Geographic Emerging Explorer Nathan Wolfe is working to create an early warning system that can forecast and contain new plagues before they kill millions. He also sees them as not just deadly, but fascinatingly beautiful and potentially helpful. This Friday, you can ask him all about it, live on the National Geographic Facebook page.
“The Viral Storm”
In the modern world, globalization and transportation create unprecedented opportunities for the spread of disease. “You can travel from a remote village in Congo to New York or Tokyo in 24 hours. From the perspective of infectious agents, the whole world is now one village. Individuals infected almost anywhere have the potential to seed pandemics everywhere,” he says.
To try to get an early warning on diseases as they emerge from animal populations and transfer to humans, he works with local villagers and scientists to conduct detailed studies of Cameroon bush meat hunters, Chinese wet-market workers and butchers, wildlife sanctuary employees, Malaysian bat hunters, and others.
“As a species, I think we have no choice but to try and forecast pandemics. HIV/AIDS is like an earthquake that’s lasted 30 years and touched every country on the planet. We have such incredible capacity to think about the future, it’s time we used it to predict biological threats. Otherwise we’ll be blindsided again and again,” he says. “Imagine preventing health crises, not just responding to them.”
Nathan’s new book “The Viral Storm: The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age” reveals human evolution through the eyes of the viruses that have accompanied us through our journeys, and lays out his plan for how we can hold our ground as the modern world makes the threat from viruses perhaps greater than ever.
You Run the Interview
Join Nathan for an exclusive video interview Friday, October 14 at 2pm ET (7pm UTC) on the National Geographic Facebook page.
Post your questions there or in the comments section of this blog post. Then tune in tomorrow for the live interview, and post more questions as the conversation develops on Facebook!