Who Gave Pinta to the Santa Maria?: Torrid Diseases in a Temperate World

Robert S. Desowitz, Author
Robert S. Desowitz, Author W. W. Norton & Company $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-04084-5
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
Paperback - 264 pages - 978-0-15-600585-2
Paperback - 260 pages - 978-0-393-33264-3
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Many deadly diseases--yellow fever, malaria, hookworm and tapeworms among them--are associated in the public eye with squalid conditions in underdeveloped tropical countries. But Desowitz (New Guinea Tapeworms and Jewish Grandmothers) shows in this revelatory medical study that all of these maladies have had, and likely will continue to have, very serious consequences on the health of citizens of temperate, developed countries like the U.S. In a chronological account stretching from 50,000 B.C. to A.D. 2000, Desowitz discusses the etiology of a variety of diseases as well as historical and current efforts to combat them. Although he can be prolix, he also is, at times, a joy to read. His coverage of malaria is enlightening and his discussion of how Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn found themselves infected with a tapeworm ""that came from a supertrafe pig,"" is fascinating, as is his look at the eponymous ""pinta""--actually, a form of syphilis. Desowitz concludes with a brief but important warning about the ways in which our destruction of natural habitats is likely to promote the transference of deadly viruses from animal reservoirs to humans. First serial to Natural History. (May)
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