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Primary Health Care Guide to Common UK Parasitic Diseases. By Figueroa J, Hall S, Ibarra J. (Pp75 plus inserts). Community Hygiene Concern, 1998. ISBN 0 953 31440 5 .
On balance, I think I was flattered when given a book to review featuring head lice. I was caught short for appropriate slides the other day when asked to teach the senior house officers (SHO) something about paediatric dermatology, so I decided to produce home made examples of warts, atopic eczema, and, you guessed, pediculosis capitis. The Editor was subsequently fed accounts of a mad general practitioner casually demonstrating the art of extracting a dozen or so beasties from her youngest offspring. It was worth it for the SHOs’ looks of horrified fascination alone.
I presume it was felt that sharing this book with me would promote public health among North Oxfordshire schoolchildren. Indeed it has. Scarcely had I started leafing through the pages on head lice—clearly laid out, comprehensively but unobtrusively referenced, common myths unemotionally and objectively assessed—when I realised that this, likeDelia Smith’s Christmas, was a book I had been looking for all my life.
Entire pages have been copied (the authors helpfully say you are allowed to) and handed to parents at our village school. For the first time in years the annual parents’ evening was not dominated by heated discussions on head lice.
Our health visitors think it’s great and want me to hurry up and finish this article so that they can borrow the book from the practice library. The importance of patient education has been clearly thought out. For example, there is a patient information sheet on head lice designed to fit into a standard format, parent held child health record.
The authors submit conventional treatment to close scrutiny. This highlights the limitations and potential dangers of prescribing by historical precedent. I had not appreciated the lack of evidence of efficacy of malathion for scabies, stuff I prescribe by the gallon.
The format of the book is simple and very effective. Each chapter covers a different parasite and is printed on different coloured paper. There is a useful glossary at the end, which enables the book to be understood by a non-medical reader. This is, however, no glossy practice coffee table book. There are no frills and, refreshingly, no grateful acknowledgements to pharmaceutical companies. A decision has apparently been made to sacrifice flashy binding for the benefit of keeping the price down. The only drawback of this otherwise wholly admirable policy is that the resolution of the photographs could be sharper.
The book does not try to be comprehensive. It only considers parasites found in the UK, and is selective about these. The editors state, however, that they plan to increase the breadth covered in future editions.
This book is a valuable and authoritative document. Its value can be estimated by the fact that the cover of my copy is getting extremely grubby. Need I say more?
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