When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

26 October 2005

You bastard (bacterium), you killed my father!

A great essay in today's New York Times. Instead of being afraid of the avian flu (which, to be fair, could in fact turn out to be a Really Big Deal), what about the immediate and real dangers that most of us are in denial about? To quote the good doctor who wrote the op-ed, here's what she'd like to say to her bird-flu obsessing patients:
If you want to be scared, then how about that drug habit of yours you think I don't know about? How about the fact that you are 100 pounds overweight and eat nothing but junk? How about the fact that in a few short months Medicaid is going to stop paying for your very expensive medications and no one knows how just high that Medicare Part D deductible and co-payment are going to be?
Preach. But here's the part that really made me sit up and take notice: antibiotic-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae gets a prominent shout-out.
If you want something to be scared of, how about the drug-resistant Klebsiella that is all over this very hospital, an ordinary run-of-the-mill bacterial strain that has become so resistant to so many antibiotics that we've had to resurrect a few we stopped using 30 years ago because they were so toxic.

That Klebsiella is one scary germ. It's in hospitals all over the country, and by now it's probably killed a thousandfold more people than the avian flu.

But you don't hear much about our Klebsiella. Like our bad habits and our dismally insoluble health insurance tangles, our antibiotic-resistant bacteria are with us, right here, right now. Apparently they all lack the drama, the suspense, the titillating worst-case situations that energize our politicians and turn into a really newsworthy health care scare.
I noticed this, I guess, primarily because drug-resistant Klebsiella (contracted in a hospital) is ultimately what killed my father.

Scare Yourself Silly, but the Real Terrors Are at Your Feet - New York Times

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