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Books, Journals, New Media
April 26, 2000

Infections of Leisure: Infections of Leisure

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


Not Available

JAMA. 2000;283(16):2169-2170. doi:10.1001/jama.283.16.2169-JBK0426-2-1

Can reading a medical textbook be fun? If most of us are candid, the answer must be less than an enthusiastic "yes." But Infections of Leisure is an exception.

A few of the chapter titles give the reader an idea of what is in store: "Perils of the Garden" (infections acquired from contact with soil and plants), "Feline Friends," "Exotic and Trendy Cuisine," and "The Camper's Uninvited Guests" (among which are ticks, mosquitoes, and fleas). The prose is equally entertaining. Of Gnathostoma species, the reader learns that

. . . larvae unable to complete development wander through the unfortunate person's tissues, sometimes for years, causing mayhem and pain as they search for the unobtainable (eg, a dog's stomach). It is hard to believe that the unfulfilled aspirations of a lost worm can cause such human misery.

In a section of the book dealing with diseases transmitted by rats, one finds that ferrets were specially trained to kill the pesky plague-carrying rats, and a " `ferretmeister' would deploy his ferrets on an infested farm or in a granary, and the animals would then `ferret out' the rodents from their hiding places. . . . " Few other texts offer prose this lively!

Substance is not sacrificed on the altar of style. Within this easy-to-use 400-page paperback volume is a gold mine of information, much of which cannot easily be gleaned elsewhere. What types of infections are associated with saltwater exposure? cat and dog bites? ferrets? sushi? athletics? To obtain this information in a comprehensive internal medicine or infectious diseases textbook might require frustrating and repetitious leapfrogging from index to text, perhaps only to come up empty handed. With Schlossberg's Infections of Leisure, the reader can usually find the desired information in a jiffy. Although not encyclopedic, the book spotlights infections associated with the interface between people and the environment, whether on land (at the beach or in the garden) or in water (freshwater or saltwater). Contact with animals, domestic or feral, can result in many different infections besides rabies, and the subject receives thorough treatment in this book.

Any honest book review typically cites deficiencies, faults, or errors, but Infections of Leisure contains few. Perhaps the most curious problem relates to a chapter on garden-associated infections, in which the authors link cat scratch fever, Legionnaires disease, and nocardiosis to activities in the garden. Other than the infrequent case of nocardiosis acquired from trauma to the skin, have these infections really been epidemiologically associated with gardening? Sporotrichosis—linked in everyone's mind to tending roses and other gardening pursuits—is discussed in only a short paragraph of this chapter, while Legionnaires disease receives nearly three times the space. Also disturbing is that therapy for all of the infections mentioned in the chapter is totally ignored.

As physicians, we are taught to obtain a complete medical history, to inquire about our patients' contacts with animals, soil, or unusual foods, and to query patients' travel histories. But, then, what do we do with the information? Infections of Leisure comes to the rescue. It guides us through the epidemiologic maze that we confront as we aim for a rational differential diagnosis. To have this wealth of information available in a pleasantly readable and concise text should be sufficient reason to have this book within easy reach. Medical libraries should certainly have a copy.