As an American - raised in a country where certain illnesses have been eradicated and medication has done a great job at squelching others - there are some words that make my skin crawl. Scabies. Ringworm. Scurvvy. Some words scare me. Tuberculosis. Leprosy. Cholera. Typhoid.
I never in my life imagined that the creepy-crawlies affected people in real life. Scurvy? That's for pirates. Leprosy? Biblical. Tuberculosis? Doesn't happen anymore.
There is no "prick-test" for TB in the DR. I guess it is assumed that most people have been exposed at some point to TB, so the standard is a chest x-ray. There are still tuberculosis wards in public hospitals.
In my ten years here, I have witnessed - but luckily have not been infected with - outbreaks of both measles and mumps. The entire country was re-vaccinated for rubella (german measles) and for tetanus in the past three years.
I had scabies once. And a really crazy rash on my stomach - one which local folk-belief says is a worm that spreads only around your waist. If it makes it all the way, you'll die. So, in order to prevent your (imminent) death, you draw a circle around each outbreak and separate each outbreak by drawing a cross in between each circle. And pray. A lot. Because you could die.
Speaking of prayer, we prayed through the cholera epidemic. The dengue fever outbreaks and the chikungunya.
These diseases are not extinct. We have not eradicated them.
Sometimes, though, I forget that. It's been awhile since some medical term popped up in the news that made me, a developed-world native, freak. This week though, Samil has had a fever. It wasn't terribly high, but it wouldn't go away - not with cold water showers, acetometaphen or ibuprofen. So, he was taken to the ER to get blood tests done and a shot to bring down his fever.
The doctor has diagnosed him with typhoid fever. La fiebre tifoide.
I laughed when they sprung out that word. Surely typhoid does not exist anymore. It has been wiped out with vaccines and medications and such. None of our family thought it was funny. Apparently typhoid is serious, especially if not treated with strong antibiotics.
Antibiotics were prescribed and Samil's fever went down. I'm actually pretty confident that he did not have typhoid, but when I think about it, it's better safe than sorry. His fever was consistent, and there was some alteration in his blood test to indicate infection. He's better now, but many children are not. People still die from typhoid. Still. I laughed because, for me, it is non-existant. I mean, who has hear of a case of typhoid?
But. Who had heard of active cases of cholera so close to home until cholera hit Haiti and we were cast into the times of love in the times of cholera.
Even after ten years (today!), it's easy to forget that the rules of childhood health and wellness are different here. It is so comfortable to pretend that we all have the same access to health care and medications to cure these things.
Luckily, and thankfully, Samil is fine. He's playing a baseball game on the computer with his uncle and happy as a clam that he didn't have to go to school these past three days!