CBR Bingo: The Wilds (all about malaria, mosquitoes, and pesticides)
There’s nothing I like reading about more than infectious disease. I’ve read books about rabies, smallpox, influenza, cholera, plague, and lots of others, but I’d never found one about malaria before, so I was really excited to read The Fever. Sadly, I had a lot of trouble getting into this book.
Malaria is really hard to understand. It has a complex disease process, and while Shah breaks it down in the first chapter, I still had trouble truly understanding it. Beyond that, the first few chapters just didn’t hold my interest. There’s a history of malaria, and usually I love that sort of thing but I just couldn’t get into it. There are long chapters about all the drugs that humans have tried to beat malaria, and all the ways those drugs have failed. Some of this was fascinating–especially the bits about DDT, mosquito nets, and the worldwide efforts of the 60s/70s to eradicate malaria, which failed miserably. I also learned a lot about mosquitoes. I think I would have enjoyed all of this a lot more if it was a single chapter in a book, rather than an entire book, actually.
The thing that frustrated me the most about this book is the section where Shah talks about how people living in sub-Saharan Africa–the place with the highest malaria burden in the world–deal with the disease. She alludes to them not really understanding why others make such a big deal about it–maybe the same way Americans would if outsiders tried to come in and eradicate type 2 diabetes, or heart disease. Yes, it kills a lot of Americans, but we’ve accepted that the risk of these diseases is just part of the way we live in this country. The issue I had with this chapter is that there’s no real resolution. So the people who are most affected by malaria accept it as part of their lives–why, then, does it attract so much attention from the rest of the world? There are answers to that question, but she doesn’t answer them, and the chapter just sort of ended, leaving me feeling very unsatisfied. It’s definitely not a bad book, but I’ve read much more interesting public health books (including other books by Shah).