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Just a few minutes after I posted Laura’s piece about Christmases past from Little House on the Main Feed yesterday, I got my own reminder about being thankful for modern life.
Two days ago I brought my youngest son, 2-year-old “Altima” (his online nickname is where he was born: in my husband’s Nissan) to the pediatrician. He had been running a 102-103 degree fever for several days and wouldn’t eat, despite us hearing his stomach rumbling from hunger. The doctor took a double swab: one for a rapid strep test and one for a throat culture. When the rapid test came back negative, we assumed it was a virus; my guess was coxsackie because he was also covered in a rash.
Yesterday afternoon, I got a call that the throat culture had come back positive; he did indeed have strep. I was about to call back, concerned he might have something else, because the rash was now incredibly uncomfortable and itchy, which it never is when the coxsackievirus is present. While I was on hold after talking to the nurse about the positive results, but before I got on with the doctor, I Googled “itchy rash, strep” and up popped up… scarlet fever.
I genuinely had no idea that anyone still got scarlet fever; I didn’t know it was actually caused by the strep bacteria. When I got on with the pediatrician, I told her about the rash, and she assured me that this is can be a complication of strep, and that the antibiotics would take care of it. I asked “is this scarlet fever, like what the Pilgrims always died from? Because that’s what Google is telling me.” She laughed and said, “We don’t use those words with parents because they get freaked out. But yes, it is, but we have antibiotics, and they didn’t. It’s just another childhood illness now.”
I hung up and laughed while telling my older kids that their brother had scarlet fever. They went ashen, asking if he’d go blind like Mary Ingalls. We just finished the Little House series during our read aloud, and asked how he could have possibly been bitten by a mosquito (confused with malaria). Once I explained the difference between scarlet fever and malaria, we had a conversation about how antibiotics have changed human existence.
Then I read this chilling piece in the New York Times about antibiotic resistance and how companies trying to develop new drugs are going out of business.
The problem is straightforward: The companies that have invested billions to develop the drugs have not found a way to make money selling them. Most antibiotics are prescribed for just days or weeks — unlike medicines for chronic conditions like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis that have been blockbusters — and many hospitals have been unwilling to pay high prices for the new therapies. Political gridlock in Congress has thwarted legislative efforts to address the problem.
The challenges facing antibiotic makers come at time when many of the drugs designed to vanquish infections are becoming ineffective against bacteria and fungi, as overuse of the decades-old drugs has spurred them to develop defenses against the medicines.
If we could give Congress and our federal government a New Year’s resolution it should be focusing on fixing this problem before it becomes a full-blown crisis.Published in