Changing Planet

Your Questions for a Virus Hunter

Nathan Wolfe, Photograph by Tom Clynes

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!


Learn More

Nathan Wolfe’s NG Emerging Explorer Bio

“The Viral Storm” From MacMillan Publishing

On Twitter @virushunter

Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.
  • nancy baldonado

    I appreciate your hard work! May God direct U in all U do :>)

  • Chris Winner

    Where do you see the positive attributes of viruses being most beneficial?

  • Hutoxi

    I love your vision & the underlying compassion. My question is that what gives any virus the actual power to cause pandemics. Can the policy used to devastate nations be used on viruses. I am talking about “Divide & Rule”. Can we not avoid pandemics through living consciously at every level?
    Sorry , I am not from a Science background but my questions are for me to better understand how I can make a difference. I wish you all the very best in your endeavors. Thank you.

    Thank you.

  • […] Your Questions for a Virus Hunter National Geographic 2011-10-13 19:18 Ratings: 9.5/10 Wolfe is working to create an early warning system that can forecast and contain new plagues before they kill millions. This Friday, you can ask him all about it, live on the National Geographic Facebook page.… […]

  • Daniel Hernandez

    Do you think it would ever be possible to combat lethal viruses with prions, or are the risks too great?

  • harmeet singh

    i also appeciate ur work ,i pray god help u everywhere

  • Ima Ryma

    The virus threat to humankind
    Most likely will be human made,
    Perhaps a virus that’s designed
    For home computers to invade.
    As Mom and Dad and the kids use
    The computer day in, day out,
    Virus infections slowly ooze
    From the machine to human route.
    Once in human, the virus turns
    The host into a zombie state.
    The only thing the zombie yearns
    Is turning others to its fate.

    The spread of virus gets annexed
    From one bad movie to the next.

  • Loramai Terez

    What do you anticipate the reaction of the pharmaceutical industry to be like? To date, the interest lies clearly in providing only medicine, rather than a cure or prevention, so support seems improbable
    What about the financing of this challenging project?

  • Linda Rosen

    DO you think we should keep our fingers out of our noses? I was very impressed with Australia’s awareness of these issues years ago. It still shocks me at how many people in the same room do not cover their nose of mouths while sneezing or coughing…Whooping cough is very contagious. Failure to practise prevention is part of the problem.

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