Corrections or additions?
This article by Richard K. Rein was prepared for the April 16, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
On Molluscum Contagiosum
How shall we ever survive this one? One of my sons has
molluscum contagiosum, plain as the dozen little red blotches on his
chest and underarm and plain as the sheaf of single spaced computer
printouts handed to me by the elementary school nurse.
It’s a virus, the nurse tells me, and it’s contagious. And the boy
might have to be . . . There’s a slight pause here and you sense that
the word "quarantine" might be in play. But then it comes
out: . . . the boy might have to be "excluded" from school.
My eyes race through the 11 pages of Internet postings. It’s from
emedicine.com, a research paper prepared by Dr. C. Lisa Kauffman MD,
chief of dermatology at Georgetown University Medical Center and a
member of the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Medical
Association, and the Society for — get this — Investigative
Dermatology. If investigative dermatology is anything like investigative
journalism — I shudder to think.
I keep plowing on through the mound of information. Molluscum contagiosum
virus (MCV, for short, I discover) is "a cutaneous infection caused
by a large DNA poxvirus that affects both children and adults. Transmission
has been reported by direct skin contact and has occurred in children
sharing baths, towels, gymnasium equipment, and benches. Autoinoculation
also occurs as evidenced by linear arrays of lesions."
The dire medical language continues. Links are provided to "related"
articles on basal cell carcinoma, dermatitis herpetiformis, keratoacanthoma,
and warts, nongenital.
Some familiar initials begin to jump out: In patients with AIDS the
lesions that otherwise might be 2 to 6 millimeters in diameter can
be 15 millimeters or more. A close-up photo is shown of an HIV-positive
male, and the lesions have spread to his face. Elsewhere I see that
AZT can be sometimes be effective in treating it — good lord how
will we survive this one?
Of course, we do. Thanks to good, old-fashioned 8 and a half by 11
paper and a laser printer, the nurse gives me my own hard copy of
the Internet findings. Fueled by the belief that a little information
is a dangerous thing, and knowing that the Internet can produce a
mind-numbing amounts of little information, I force myself to read
the print-out slowly and carefully. There in the middle of page 5
is this statement: "Molluscum contagiosum generally is self limited
and heals after several months or years. Any one lesion is present
for about 2 months; however, to prevent autoinoculation or transmission
to close contacts, therapy may be beneficial." On page 8 is another
glimmer of hope: Molluscum contagiosum is a benign self-limited disease.
Treatments are effective. Overall prognosis is excellent."
As the physician’s assistant in the dermatologist’s office later says,
"this isn’t a threat to his health; it’s just a nuisance."
I think back to the warts I had on my hands — right there, for
everyone to see! — when I was 9 or 10. What kind of alarms would
the Internet have sounded for me and my parents if there had been
an Internet. And how — in that dark, pre-Information Age —
did I ever manage to survive those warts?
A few months ago a friend forwarded to me one of those personal essays
that get scattered across the Internet. This one was aimed at children
of the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s, and even ’70s, and wondered how all of us
could have lived as long as we did, considering that:
our bikes we had no helmets.
law suits from these accidents. They were accidents. No one was to
blame but us.
one died of this.
had to learn to deal with disappointment.
they were held back a year. Tests were not adjusted for any reason.
did not have Play Stations, Nintendo 64, X-boxes, video games, 250
satellite channels on TV, DVD movies, surround sound, cell phones,
personal computers, Internet chat rooms. . . We had friends."
came to the same conclusions I did about molluscum contagiosum. My
boy has not been excluded, though they have asked him to keep his
shirt on — literally now as well as figuratively.
My boy and I will survive MCV, I am convinced. As for the Nintendo,
the movies, the 250 channels, and the Internet chat rooms, I am hopeful
but not nearly so sure.
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