The New Yorker once called virologist Nathan Wolfe "the world's most prominent virus hunter." Wolfe, the director of the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative, spends his days tracking emerging infectious diseases before they turn into deadly pandemics.
In The Viral Storm, Wolfe describes how most of those emerging infectious diseases originally start out in animals before making the jump to us.
"Almost all of them start from an animal virus, an animal microbe that jumps over to humans," says Wolfe. "That's actually the same with most of the major diseases of humanity. These things actually start with animals."
In Central Africa, where Wolfe has worked for over a decade, hundreds of thousands people still hunt and consume tropical wild game, called bush meat. The practice has allowed viruses like HIV to leap from wild animals to humans — and then spread rapidly across populations.
Wolfe and his colleagues in the region stress the health hazards of bush meat. But he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that it's difficult to change hunters' behavior without providing alternative sources of protein.