Meryl: Failing Infectious Disease 101

I just had to blog this. It's just too absurd to let slip.

Did you know that it's only possible to contract a single disease at a time?

Yes, really.

Meryl Dorey says so, so it must be true

 That's a page from the Winter 2006 edition of the Australian Vacination Network's "Informed Voice" Magazine. If you click and get the bigger version, you'll see that just above "How many is to many?" Meryl has made the following claim:

It is also a fact that we will only ever contract one disease at a time - measles - not measles, mumps and rubella. Measles - not measles and 9,999 other diseases

I, of course, was rather surprised at this. There was me thinking that one of the big fears in hospital intensive care departments was that patients already infected with life-threatening illness A might pick up life threatening-illness B and or life-threatening illness C while there. I'm pretty sure I've sat in an intensive care unit overnight while this very multiple- infection drama has been played out in front of me.

So, of course, I did the single thing that Meryl clearly didn't bother to do.

I did a web search

Google: "multiple simultaneous infections"

Bing: "multiple simultaneous infections"

Wikipedia: "multiple simultaneous infections"

Google Scholar: "multiple simultaneous infections"

So it's not true then. Surprise fucking surprise.

Perhaps Meryl got a bit confused about the oft-cited factoid that Syphilis can, in some cases, be cured via Malaria infection (or, in fact, anything that causes a sufficiently high fever). It's a risky cure from the 1920s, which is where most of Meryl's medical information seems to come from, so that's at least plausible. More plausible than the idea that only a single disease can be happening at a time.

Still, if only this little nugget of bullshit were true. Doctors treating Ebola outbreaks could just inhale a bit of rhinovirus on the way and be guaranteed safe from the worse disease for the duration of their miserable sniffles. What a breakthrough. They could then, of course, just treat the rhinovirus with Meryl's much-loved magic water, after they've stopped the Ebola outbreak with a mixture of chiropractic, intercessory prayer and mother-earth chanting circles. Then they could all go to the local whole-food collective cooperative farmers market and enjoy some biodynamic granola while they give each other organic fair-trade coffee enemas and sing protest songs on out-of-tune accoustic guitars.

What a shame we don't live in the same fantasy land as Meryl Dorey, eh?


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