Book: The Woman with a Worm in Her Head by Pamela Nagami, M.D.

This is a book in the style of Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.

I found it quite interesting and a little scary: it’s a reminder of the dangers that lurk in daily life. The doctor mentions being inspired at one point by reading Animals Without Backbones by Ralph Buschbaum, which is the original edition of my current science read, Living Invertebrates, AKA “The Big Book o’ Invertebrates.”

The sections of this book are

  • Foreword by F. Gonzalez-Crussi, Emeritus Professor of Pathology
  • Introduction – about the author’s medical training
  • “Worm Hunt” – The man with a worm in his flesh. A man who visited Vietnam is struck by a strange illness, and the doctor must use her detective skills to discover the cause.
  • “Wounded Heart” – The doctor deals with heart disease caused by bacterial infection – remember rheumatic fever?
  • “Valley Fever” – A dust-borne fungus in California causes a local disease that can be a transient fever or a debilitating illness.
  • “AIDS” – The AIDS crisis arises in a few mysterious infections; builds in susceptible young men, drug users, transfusion recipients, and others; and finally is slowed by the first effective treatments.
  • “Maneater” – Flesh-eating Strep bacteria can attack anyone through an opening in the skin as small as a paper cut.
  • “A Fever from Africa” – Tropical diseases, including malaria, take huge medical resources to fight.
  • “Manju” – Some of the worst ills are slow brain diseases, apparently caused by imperfect virus particles or even twisted proteins.
  • “The Woman With a Worm in Her Head” – Cysticerosis caused by the pork tapeworm from undercooked pork (“The Other White Meat”) or other foods
  • “Septic Shock” – Staph infections can manifest in many ways from the deadly septic shock (including “childbed fever”) to scarlet fever and more.
  • “A Case of Chickenpox” – Chickenpox in unvaccinated adults can kill, so it’s important to check immunity and be aware of the symptoms.
  • “Call Me Spot” – Meningitis can cause purple spots under the skin. This is another case of bacteria that are ususally harmless getting into the wrong place or becoming virulent.
  • Conclusion – a continuing battle against infectious disease
  • Glossary
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Index

See also “Currently Reading: The Woman With a Worm in Her Head.

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