Disease Prevention

Very few people are aware that Mohandas Gandhi was engaged to his wife Kasturbai at the age of 6. Fewer still are aware that Kasturbai was the THIRD child engaged to Gandhi and that the first two had died (I think of cholera) since child mortality was very high in the 19th century. Of course it was the parents who arranged the wedding. Gandhi writes in his autobiography that all he understood was that he would receive new clothes, there would be good things to eat, and he would have a new playmate. The girl would live with the grooms parents. Only when he was age 11 or 12 did his uncle explain to him that he must begin to sleep with his wife. Gandhi always wondered who had explained things to Kasturbai but he never had the temerity to ask.

The beauty of milk maid was celebrated in medieval song because the milk maids would contract cow pox and become immune to small pox, so milk maids had beautiful unblemished faces.

Jonas Salk was so noble to place the polio vaccine in public domain. Salk could have make it proprietary and become very wealthy.

Speaking of the eradication of disease: The Carter Center has predicted that guinea worm disease will be the first parasitic disease to be eradicated and the first disease to be eradicated through behavior change, without the use of vaccines or a cure. There is no animal or environmental reservoir of D. medinensis and thus the parasite must pass through humans each year to survive.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dracunculiasis

I think that 20 years ago there were something like 50,000 cases a year and that has been reduced to 3,500. Regions at war present the greatest obstacle right now to pursuing complete eradication.

Here is an example of the problem of “forgetting” with regard to trichinosis. Also I had no idea that eating bear meat was a source of infection. Nor did I realize that rats may be part of the cycle. I once ordered a meal in a nice restaurant in Chinatown not realizing that they would bring raw pork to the table, slice it thinly and drop it for a minute or two in some water which was steaming hot but not boiling. I refused to eat it. I think someone would have to be out of their mind or simply ignorant to take a risk like that. Also, I used to go to a Spanish fast food restaurant in Brooklyn and noticed that they would place raw pork and chicken on the counter, cut it, wipe the counter and then put frozen papaya on the same counter to make a milk shake!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trichinosis

Excerpt: The disappearance of the pathogen from domestic pigs has led to a relaxing of legislation and control efforts of veterinary public health systems. It has since been thought of as a reemerging zoonosis supplemented by the increased distribution of meat products, political changes, a changing climate, and increasing sylvatic transmission.
It is also important to keep in mind that major socio-political changes can produce conditions that favor the resurgence of Trichinella infections in swine and, consequently, humans. For instance, “the overthrow of the social and political structures in the 1990s” in Romania led to an increase in the incidence rate of trichinosis. There is also a high incidence of trichinosis among refugees from Southeast Asia. China reports approximately 10,000 cases every year and is therefore the country with the highest numbers of cases. In China, between 1964-1998 over 20,000 people were infected with Trichinosis and over 200 people died

I had never thought about that! I is strange how we will fret over the extinction of a certain kind of frog or bird or fish but no one worries about the extinction of the guinea worm. I am not saying that anyone SHOULD worry or mourn the loss, but it does represent the extinction of a species.

I suppose HIV and other STD infections could be eradicated merely by behavior change and without the use of medications (as was mentioned regarding guinea worm eradication.) But it seems next to impossible for all humans to control their sexual behavior even when they know the dangers involved. I have one friend in his 40s who met up with a woman who actually advertised in Craigslist and was quite explicit regarding her interests (he sent me the advertisement). I asked him if he used protection and he said that he did five out of the six times. I told him that 5 out of six is not enough it must be six out of six, 100%, to be effective. After several weeks of getting what she wanted she confided to him that she had herpes. He was distressed and fearful that perhaps he would contract it. I suggested to him that quite possibly she is simply saying that to get rid of him now that he bores her. Why would she bother to tell him at all unless she wanted to scare him away? Or perhaps it gave her sadistic pleasure to instill fear in him. I have an online friend in Singapore, in his 20s, who had the exact same experience, namely being seduced by an older woman and only afterwards did she tell him she has herpes. He spent weeks in agony of apprehension and actually at one point said to me that he felt suicidal. I read up on herpes and even though it is no picnic it is something that people can live with and not a serious enough affliction to warrant suicide. They say STD was at an all-time low until “the pill” became available and people no longer depended upon condoms. One surprising STD which is a concern to health workers is tuberculosis because it is found in people with compromised immune systems may be spread airborn by having ones face close to the face of an infected person.

Consider how hard it is to get people to give up tobacco or alcohol (or never start using them in the first place.) I was a heavy user of both until 3 years ago. Now I never miss them, but if I started tomorrow I know I would go right back to being addicted.

For that matter, the known health risks of obesity, high cholesterol and lack of cardiovascular exercise are not sufficient to persuade people to watch their diets. Same with the risks of diabetes.

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Nothing seems more natural than to take a toddler on a stroll in a wooded area and allow them to pick up sticks or twigs and perhaps even put them in their mouths (when you are not watching.) Raccoons are present even in urban areas. Raccoons carry a parasite in their feces for which there is no known cure and which enters the brain and destroys it. There was a case of a child who died from such an infection contracted simply by a walk in a wooded area and putting an infected twig in the mouth.

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