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Lyme Disease: The Ecology of a Complex System

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Most human diseases come from nature, from pathogens that live and breed in non-human animals and are "accidentally" transmitted to us. Human illness is only the culmination of a complex series of interactions among species in their natural habitats. To avoid exposure to these pathogens, we must understand which species are involved, what regulates their abundance, and how Most human diseases come from nature, from pathogens that live and breed in non-human animals and are "accidentally" transmitted to us. Human illness is only the culmination of a complex series of interactions among species in their natural habitats. To avoid exposure to these pathogens, we must understand which species are involved, what regulates their abundance, and how they interact. Lyme disease affects the lives of millions of people in the US, Europe, and Asia. It is the most frequently reported vector-borne disease in the United States; About 20,000 cases have been reported each year over the past five years, and tens of thousands more go unrecognized and unreported. Despite the epidemiological importance of understanding variable LD risk, such pursuit has been slow, indirect, and only partially successful, due in part to an overemphasis on identifying the small subset of 'key players' that contribute to Lyme disease risk, as well as a general misunderstanding of effective treatment options. This controversial book is a comprehensive, synthetic review of research on the ecology of Lyme disease in North America. It describes how humans get sick, why some years and places are so risky and others not. It challenges dogma - for instance, that risk is closely tied to the abundance of deer - and replaces it with a new understanding that embraces the complexity of species and their interactions. It describes why the place where Lyme disease emerged - coastal New England - set researchers on mistaken pathways. It shows how tiny acorns have enormous impacts on our probability of getting sick, why biodiversity is good for our health, why living next to a small woodlot is dangerous, and why Lyme disease is an excellent model system for understanding many other human and animal diseases. Intended for an audience of professional and student ecologists, epidemiologists, and other health scientists, it is written in an informal style accessible also to non-scientists interested in human health and conservation.


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Most human diseases come from nature, from pathogens that live and breed in non-human animals and are "accidentally" transmitted to us. Human illness is only the culmination of a complex series of interactions among species in their natural habitats. To avoid exposure to these pathogens, we must understand which species are involved, what regulates their abundance, and how Most human diseases come from nature, from pathogens that live and breed in non-human animals and are "accidentally" transmitted to us. Human illness is only the culmination of a complex series of interactions among species in their natural habitats. To avoid exposure to these pathogens, we must understand which species are involved, what regulates their abundance, and how they interact. Lyme disease affects the lives of millions of people in the US, Europe, and Asia. It is the most frequently reported vector-borne disease in the United States; About 20,000 cases have been reported each year over the past five years, and tens of thousands more go unrecognized and unreported. Despite the epidemiological importance of understanding variable LD risk, such pursuit has been slow, indirect, and only partially successful, due in part to an overemphasis on identifying the small subset of 'key players' that contribute to Lyme disease risk, as well as a general misunderstanding of effective treatment options. This controversial book is a comprehensive, synthetic review of research on the ecology of Lyme disease in North America. It describes how humans get sick, why some years and places are so risky and others not. It challenges dogma - for instance, that risk is closely tied to the abundance of deer - and replaces it with a new understanding that embraces the complexity of species and their interactions. It describes why the place where Lyme disease emerged - coastal New England - set researchers on mistaken pathways. It shows how tiny acorns have enormous impacts on our probability of getting sick, why biodiversity is good for our health, why living next to a small woodlot is dangerous, and why Lyme disease is an excellent model system for understanding many other human and animal diseases. Intended for an audience of professional and student ecologists, epidemiologists, and other health scientists, it is written in an informal style accessible also to non-scientists interested in human health and conservation.

47 review for Lyme Disease: The Ecology of a Complex System

  1. 5 out of 5

    H R Koelling

    I really wanted to love this book. Actually, I do love this book. But I wanted to love this book more. The published review I read stated that this book was accessible to non-scientists. I disagree. Perhaps if I had retained more from my high-school biology class I would have felt more comfortable with the author's discussions of epidemiology, vectors and a host of other nomenclature that biologists use in their daily lives. As a non-biologist, yet someone who considers himself a little bit smar I really wanted to love this book. Actually, I do love this book. But I wanted to love this book more. The published review I read stated that this book was accessible to non-scientists. I disagree. Perhaps if I had retained more from my high-school biology class I would have felt more comfortable with the author's discussions of epidemiology, vectors and a host of other nomenclature that biologists use in their daily lives. As a non-biologist, yet someone who considers himself a little bit smarter than the average American (OK, I'm not a card-carrying member of Mensa, but I'm also not the dimmest bulb in the marquee) I struggled to truly grasp and understand the very concisely explained and brilliant theories and research the author painstakingly documented. That said, I decided to read this book after hearing him speak on my local NPR station. The ideas I heard him present, a complete repudiation of almost everything we believe about the spread of and history of Lyme Disease, was both riveting and shocking. How could the scientific community have reached such faulty conclusions that still permeate the general public's view of this devastating disease? The author's in-depth personal research and exhausting documentation of the emergence of this disease is fascinating... if you can wade through the scientific vernacular. I love the fact that he challenged the status quo to reform Lyme disease incubation and transmission beliefs. My thoughts about the black legged tick habitat I often walk through in the Hudson Valley have permanently changed. What I also loved about this book was the authors explanation of how important the inter-connectivity of forest ecosystems and the interrelationships of forest dwelling creatures are so easily disrupted to the detriment of mankind. The vacillations of songbird populations effecting predator/prey relationships constrained by mast production influencing rodent survival makes you start to wonder if the fluttering of a butterfly's wings in South America can ultimately lead to a tornado in Europe. For the non-scientist, I cannot recommend this book. The book is very well written but it reads like a peer-reviewed scientific document you might encounter in a professional journal, except this monograph is 188 pages long; 207 pages long with the bibliography. Here is my attempt to succinctly sum-up what the author presents in this book: There's no such thing as a deer tick, it's been misidentified as a new species. We shouldn't vilify deer for the spread and transmission of Lyme disease, we need to worry about white-footed mice populations; and possibly other ground dwelling small mammals such as shrews. But the factors influencing white-footed mice populations such as habitat destruction, fragmented forests with little species variability and the cyclical nature of mice fodder (possibly caused by man made factors that effect temperature and rainfall), are the real culprits in the epidemiology of Lyme disease.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa Farnsworth

    Written by a senior scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies located in Dutchess county New York - a region that boasts one of the highest per capita rates of Lyme disease in the world - this book takes a look at what scientists have learned from two decades of studying Lyme disease in nature. And what they've learned is plenty. Excellent read.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Benja

    Wonderful book written for everyone to read and understand. Only fault is lack of solutions. But soultions will take more than suggestions from one author. A public movement to live with nature is required ( see also Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

  5. 5 out of 5

    Karen

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lois

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jaimie

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jake

  9. 5 out of 5

    Christine

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mike Scotto

  11. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Greenwalt

  12. 4 out of 5

    SRullman

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lucy Kenyon

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mackenzie Tietjen

  15. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Frost

  16. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

  17. 5 out of 5

    Renée

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Martin

  19. 4 out of 5

    Hussein

  20. 4 out of 5

    Erika

  21. 4 out of 5

    Blake Markwell

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mary

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kate Huyvaert

  24. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jason

  26. 5 out of 5

    Randy Garvin

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rosalia

  28. 4 out of 5

    Roger

  29. 4 out of 5

    Crystal

  30. 4 out of 5

    Greg

  31. 5 out of 5

    Amelia

  32. 4 out of 5

    Quinn

  33. 4 out of 5

    Sam

  34. 4 out of 5

    msleighm

  35. 4 out of 5

    Mom's Books

  36. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  37. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

  38. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Lynn

  39. 5 out of 5

    Cyril Bennouna

  40. 4 out of 5

    Grace Parikh

  41. 4 out of 5

    Amy St.

  42. 4 out of 5

    Allen Steele

  43. 5 out of 5

    Zena Casteel

  44. 5 out of 5

    Mary Severinghaus

  45. 4 out of 5

    M Heenan

  46. 5 out of 5

    Katie Filer

  47. 4 out of 5

    robert franks

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