Top critical review
Too Many Scientific Errors To Be Taken Too Seriously
Reviewed in the United States on April 3, 2016
While a book of this nature is timely and would be welcome, it must be a book where scientific accuracy is above reproach. I found a number of errors that make me call into question the remainder of the information. It was researched heavily, but still misinformation made it into the book.
A note here before I continue. I am in upper management of a mosquito control district, so I am quite informed about mosquito disease issues that are problematic here in the United States. With that said, some issues with her research include her information on West Nile virus and dengue in Florida.
Her discussion of West Nile virus early in the book is a mixture of fact and conjecture. No one is really sure how West Nile first got started in this country (in Queens, New York), but most experts believe that the most likely scenario was either mosquitoes that hitch hiked aboard commercial airline flights, cargo flights or it was introduced through the illegal trade in rare and exotic birds.
The author makes the claim that the disease had probably been introduced by way of migratory birds along the Atlantic flyway. The big problem is that, while these birds do get together during the summer in the Arctic, their migration routes take them over New York as the mosquitoes that can transmit West Nile (Culex sps.) are heading into winter hibernation. In addition, the birds most susceptible to West Nile are not birds found along this flyway. Birds that summer in the Arctic are geese, ducks, etc. and they are very resistant to this virus. It is pretty uncommon to find the virus in their blood, and if it is, it is at a very low threshold. Crows and other corvids, which are heavily affected y the disease and are the reservoir for it don't winter there and commute south, making this an unlikely method of transmission.
Her treatment of the dengue outbreak in South Florida is also riddled with inaccuracies. Yes, there were a number of abandoned pools in the housing meltdown at about the time of the dengue outbreak. And, swimming pools were allowed to go "green", which means the water turns fetid. Her claim that they are out of sight of mosquito control experts is ludicrous, however. Most mosquito control districts use either images from satellites or aerial photography. The "green" pools stand out like a sore thumb and the districts can them treat them. In addition, neighbors tend to squeal when there is a large influx of mosquitoes.
What makes this a particularly erroneous section, however, is that the species of mosquito that likes to breed in fetid water is the Culex sps., which can transmit West Nile disease and a number of other disease, but cannot transmit dengue. That requires the Aedes sps. which has been present in South Florida (and a lot of the rest of the country) for years. That particular type mosquito hates fetid water and likes to breed in containers, tires and other places where clean rainwater collects. In a roundabout way, the foreclosure crisis may have been to partially to blame, but not because of the swimming pools, but rather because people being evicted tend to leave junk on the property, such as tires, old pots and containers.
The dengue outbreak was likely caused by a lot of factors, including weather, but also by the arrival of infected people into the South Florida region. Dengue is endemic in numerous Caribbean islands, as well as most of Central and South America. If visitors to the country that were infected with dengue came in the right numbers, the disease would flourish.
Finally, she chastises the scientific community for not searching for new diseases more quickly. And while that may sound valid, remember that there are thousands, if not millions, of diseases living in animals around the world that have not spread to humans. The majority of time spent looking for new diseases in a given area is spent looking for diseases known to be transmitted to man and to cause death and disablement A good example would be the Zika virus now making the news. This was first identified decades ago in Africa, but it never caused any harm to humans, so it was ignored. It was only when it started to appear in South America that humans became seriously impacted. Now it is on the watch list and testing is being done to locate it.
Overall, I think she tried to write a valid book, but entered into areas where she had no expertise and failed to consult specialists in those fields. It is one thing to read papers on disease, but another to talk to someone who works with it day in and day out. An expert can give you the consesnus science pretty quickly, but you need to read a lot of different papers to find a good mix of information.
My recommendation would be to pass this over. There are other, better books out there, and given the problems found by me and others with expertise, it makes me question all of the science in the book..