So, How ‘Bout Those Infectious Diseases?

Some pre-Halloween nightmares, maybe?

Dr. Jerome Groopman at the New Yorker writes about Sex and the Superbug.

In January, 2009, a prostitute visited a clinic in Kyoto, Japan, for a routine checkup. Her lab test came back positive for gonorrhea. She was given several doses of ceftriaxone, the definitive treatment for gonorrhea, over a period of time, but her condition persisted. Now, public-health experts view the Kyoto case as something far more alarming: the emergence of a strain of gonorrhea that is resistant to the last drug available against it, and the harbinger of a sexually transmitted global epidemic.

The physiology, sociology and microbiology of this crisis are detailed in beautifully simple and terrifying terms here The article raises the question of what we do for prevention, since presently the world is on track for a drug-resistant epidemic.

Fortunately, Anna at STD Awareness has some answers…

With all the baggage we put on STD status, it can be difficult to ask a partner to use a condom or dental dam during oral sex. Some people might think we don’t trust them or are underhandedly questioning their “cleanliness.” These sorts of fears can cloud our judgment when it comes to protecting our health, but there is nothing wrong with asking your partner to use protection during oral sex — especially if you don’t know one another’s STD status. There are many good reasons to use barrier methods when engaging in oral sex, and pharyngeal gonorrhea is just one of them.

This particular bug is sexually-transmitted, and a lot of us are not at risk. Do not be complacent. Germs don’t care.

MRSA, Methcillin Resistant Staph Aureus, is everywhere. In the 80’s we used to wear a space suit to treat an infected patient. It was a futile gesture. Go here for helpful advice on ‘Living With MRSA’. Short version– wash your hands.

In Dr.Groopman’s article, the Japanese woman who was treated with so many antibiotics in vain eventually got better. Her own immune system won out over the germs. A very important point is that ‘superbugs’ are not necessarily super-strong. It’s just that when they do get ahead of a person’s immunity, antibiotics don’t work. Like the bad old days when a sinus infection could and did kill people.

We are all part of an ecology that runs on natural selection, so none of this is unforeseen or even unfair. It’s what it is. Wiser use of antibiotics would have kept these life-saving medicines effective for much longer, but human nature doesn’t tend toward wisdom. We’re fairly good at crisis, so maybe with common sense and luck we will not see another 1918.

I am totally getting my flu shot this year.

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