People love to talk about the zombie apocalypse, but I’m telling you, it won’t be zombies that get us. It will be a virus or an antibiotic-resistant infection. I don’t think it will wipe out the entire human race, but I’m certain there will be a nasty pandemic that will change life as we know it.
This is a topic in which I’m immensely fascinated. So much so, I’m applying to graduate school to study historical epidemiology. With a location problem, my educational options are limited. But I’m hoping to get a master’s degree in history and do some research on my own.
Mostly I’m interested in the past and how epidemics have influenced history. But we are making out own history RIGHT NOW. Get it? Get it?
Some interesting diseases that have popped up lately
A SARS-like virus: This is a new bug that cropped up in September 2012, and so far, it has only been found in the Middle East and Germany, where the victims go for treatment.
Scientists believe that it’s not easily spread between people, which is good. That means it might just peter out before it becomes a real epidemic, like SARS was. Truthfully, I don’t want to walk around with a mask on like those people did in China 10 years ago. It would hide my gorgeous smile.
MRSA: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is not very new. But it’s a biggie. I know because I’ve had it before. When my friends try to say that you shouldn’t use anti-bacterial soap, I laugh. Bullshit. Once you’ve had MRSA, you’ll anti-bacterialize yourself constantly. Besides, their argument is that it weakens our immune systems too much and we don’t allow ourselves to fight off disease on our own. I say it’s too late for that. If we had used this thinking 30 years ago, maybe. But now it’s all about killing the germs that have already mutated into the murderous little bastards they are.
I was never a germaphobe before. I’d say I’m not really now, either. At least not Howie Mandel-style. But since my MRSA infection and since I’ve really started to read about disease transmission, I wash my hands like Lady MacBeth.
I have another reason to be worried — I take immuno-suppressants for arthritis. I’m pretty sure that’s how I got MRSA, and It makes me extra-careful. It’s not that I won’t go around someone who is sick, especially if it’s someone I love, but the skin on my hands is awfully red this time of year.
For those who are unfamiliar, MRSA is a drug-resistant form of staph infection. For me, it began on my skin, looking like a spider bite. I showed it to a friend at church who said, “That could be MRSA. You’d better go to a doctor.” I had no idea what MRSA was at the time, so I went home that evening and did some Googling. I was pretty convinced that it was, but I didn’t have a fever.
Next morning, I woke up with a fever and got my butt to the doctor. By the time I got an appointment in the afternoon, I was feverish and weak, and could barely sit up. But the problem was, I had a nasty pustule on my booty. The thing about MRSA is that it’s very painful. Since I had one on my butt and one on the back of my leg, I couldn’t sleep on my back. The pain was way too much.
The doctor got me in to a dermatologist the next day, who took a culture from the spot on my finger. Yowza! When I came back down off the ceiling, he confirmed that’s what it was. He put me on antibiotics for a month, gave me a topical antibiotic cream and pain pills (yes!). It took a while, but it finally went away. But not before my son got it, too. Luckily, since he’s not immuno-compromised, he only had to be on antibiotics for two weeks.
The thing about MRSA is that it comes back. I kept getting little spots for months. But it didn’t finally go away until I switched to antibacterial body wash. That made all the difference. (See? SEE?)
These days, doctors are finding Staph aureus that is Vanomycin-resistant, too. Oh, Lord! Bacteria just keep on evolving until they will eventually take over. Any fool who doesn’t believe in evolution need not look further than a hospital. IT’S RIGHT THERE!
Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE: So far, this one has only been seen in hospitals, but it’s resistant to ALL antibiotics. So, if you get this, you can kiss your ass goodbye!
So, it’s time to come out of the closet: I’m an infectious disease nerd. I read a lot of books about this stuff.
What I’m reading now:
This is a fascinating look at diseases that move from animals to humans, like AIDS, Ebola, Hendra and more. Pretty cool.
This is a really good book about the Epidemic Intelligence Service of the CDC. Very cool stories about how disease mysteries were solved.
And on deck:
A friend recommended this book to me. It’s about a Russian bioweapons researcher who escaped to the U.S. and tells his story.
I also follow Dr. Mark Crislip, an infectious disease doctor who writes and podcasts about it. He’s highly entertaining. You can find out more at Edgydoc.com. I enjoyed his book “Puswhisperer,” which now has a second volume I’m working on. I really hope to meet him someday and ask him what he thinks of anti-bacterial soap.