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Straightforward introduction to medical entomology

Gunnar Hasle About the author

Goddard, Jerome

Physician’s guide to arthropods of medical importance

6. ed. 515 p., tab, ill. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2013. Price GBP 95

ISBN 978-1-4398-5085-5

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The book is intended for doctors who have no previous knowledge of entomology, but wish to acquire a basic knowledge of this field. It is a textbook that lends itself to being read from cover to cover, but it is also suitable as a reference manual. The text is provided with boxes with case descriptions and frequently asked questions.

The book is written in accessible English, has a solid binding and is printed on high-quality paper. It includes a CD-ROM, the most useful feature of which is the large collection of links. There are numerous illustrations, in the form of photos, life-cycle diagrams and distribution maps. Like other good textbooks of entomology, it primarily presents drawings of the animals, but unfortunately, the publishers have used low-resolution images for their reproduction of these drawings. This is a pity, since in addition to being a significant help in identification, much of the pleasure of reading entomology stems from perusing detailed drawings. Here, it feels as though your eyes need to strain to find a focus. For example, the book includes drawings of 20 different species of mosquitoes and 26 species of ticks, but with so little detail that the drawings serve no purpose whatsoever. It should be noted, though, that this is not a book for identification of species, and the illustrations serve only as examples of what is out there. A complete identification of all medically relevant arthropods would fill metres of shelf space. The book provides a wealth of references for further reading.

The first part deals with diseases and afflictions caused by the arthropods themselves: allergies, local reactions, stings, bites and invasion of human tissue. When people come in with a rash they believe to have been caused by an insect bite, they rarely bring with them the creature that stung them. The book presents in a tabular format a number of facts that can help narrow the search for a possible cause. I would have liked to see more and better illustrations of the appearance of various stings.

In the second part, the authors present the classification and identification of arthropods at the fundamental level. In addition, it provides an overview of symptoms and signs indicative of diseases transmitted by arthropods.

The third part is the main section, in which the authors review each group of medically relevant arthropods. They describe their proliferation, appearance, biology, the afflictions caused by arthropods, any diseases that they may transmit, and how they can be controlled. To some extent, the priorities are characterised by the fact that the book is American.

Finally, the book contains a small but useful section on personal protection.

To many, entomology may appear as an insurmountable field to engage in, but this book can provide useful help for infection specialists and those working in travel medicine to start studying this fascinating subject.

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