Sonia Shah speaks at a TedMed event
Sonia Shah speaks at a TedMed event

(DIYA TV) — Science journalist and prized-winning author Sonia Shah’s new novel, Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, From Cholera to Ebola and Beyond, officially hit the shelves of bookstores on Feb. 23. The book carries a simple narrative: Is a disease that will kill tens of millions coming?

Pandemic is Shah’s fourth book, and second about deadly diseases.

Its arrival comes at the same time public health officials in the U.S. are fighting the Zika virus, and Shah recently told NPR that epidemiologists are bracing themselves for what has been called the next “Big One” — a disease that could kill tens of millions of people in the coming years. Citing a 2006 survey, Shah says, “the majority of … pandemic experts of all kinds, felt that a pandemic that would sicken a billion people, kill 165 million people and cost the global economy about $3 trillion would occur sometime in the next two generations.”

Shah's new book, Pandemic, hit shelves on Feb. 23
Shah’s new book, Pandemic, hit shelves on Feb. 23

In her new book, Shah presents a discussion surrounding the history and science of contagious diseases. Specifically, she notes that humans put themselves at highest-risk by encroaching on wildlife habitats — about 60 percent of new pathogens come from the bodies of animals, according to Shah. And international travel perpetuates the spread of disease, Shah said. “Air travel shapes our epidemics in such a powerful way that scientists can actually predict where and when an epidemic will strike next just by measuring the number of direct flights between infected and uninfected cities.”

What can be done? Shah says epidemiologists can work more rigorously to identify outbreaks before they occur, but stopping them all together is a completely different matter. Living with the possibility of an outbreak is part of the hand of cards you’re dealt coming into this world, Shah said.

“Our relationship to disease and pandemics is really … part of our relationship to the natural world,” she says. “It’s a risk we have to live with.”

Information from NPR contributed to this report.