Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Louis Pasteur in France followed up vaccination work with discoveries in the field of anthrax and rabies and saved a child's life with an experimental vaccine. In 19th century France, and elsewhere, stray dogs were a feared threat as one bite from a rabid animal promised a horrible, writhing, foaming death. Rabies was terrifying and Pasteur's inoculation made him the object of adoration.
These are just a few of the giants, the most well known giants in the field of public medicine in the past couple of centuries. Their work is how we as a species figured out how to eradicate ghastly diseases. I well remember young kids coughing their chests out with "whooping" cough, a hacking chest condition so severe it sounded like the victims were literally going to split their young bodies apart from coughing. I remember spending an eternity in a dark isolated room with measles, I remember eating a sugar lump to prevent polio. Nowadays it seems no one remembers any of it. Yesterday I went to get my free swine flu vaccine, thinking grateful thoughts about Jenner, Pasteur and Reed among others, grateful we still have some sort of public health department in the US, and at home my wife tells me most of her students aren't vaccinated because parents fear the vaccine. Most of my colleagues refused the free vaccine- and half of the twelve of us are sick, coughing and hacking. One has swine flu and is in isolation at home "sounding like death." Hyperbole I know but swine flu is horrid and why would anyone refuse a vaccine? Because it's a government plot they say, because vaccine causes autism, because people are uneducated, ungrateful and deserve what they get. God, if you exist, please give me strength.