Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The problem of Bordetella

In the Western press, there are always two coalitions: the coalition controlling the government, and the opposition coalition. In the UK and the US, there are only two parties, so each coalition is a single party. Elsewhere, there are many parties, but, a fortiori, only two coalitions: the one in power and the one out of power. Which means that the press for coalition A always says bad things about coalition B, and the press for coalition B always says bad things about coalition A. But neither dares say that the entire country is on the wrong path, mainly because of self-censorship, since the press fears both the government, and the fact that only the lunatic fringe will pay for any publication that doesn't say the nation is doing GREAT, so economics dictates against criticizing the entire country.

Anyway, the Western press has reported outbreaks of Bordetella (which sounds to me like a bad luncheon meat).

In the Eastern press, the self-censorship means they don't dare say anything negative at all. So, when China had a terrible flu epidemic, the Chinese newspapers all reported that, thanks to the proactive measures taken by the government, there was absolutely no flu at all in China. The Chinese all put on protective masks as soon as they read that article, knowing that an article that said there was no flu in China meant there was a terrible epidemic, and the government had no idea what to do about it.

Here in Dubai, there seems to be an epidemic of Bordetella. This bacteria causes a chronic cough, a cough so bad the victims have a hard time breathing and often vomit. But nothing about Bordetella has appeared in any of the local newspapers.

Everyone in Dubai was vaccinated against Bordetella as a child, but the vaccine wears off, and anyone over 30 might be susceptible. A Bordetella infection can be fatal to infants, which is why they are all vaccinated. It can also be fatal to the elderly. And doctors have a hard time diagnosing Bordetella, since it is a childhood disease, and all children have been vaccinated, so it isn't supposed to occur at all.

For anyone with a terrible cough, a cough so bad they cannot breath and sometimes vomit, there is a 91% chance that the cough is caused by Bordetella. And since Bordetella is a gram-negative bacteria, it is immune to most antibiotics. Only the mycins seem to work.

The international authorities say that all those exposed to Bordetella should immediately go on a 14 day treatment with Erythromycin to prevent an infection.

Anyone who has developed a Bordetella infection should take a -mycin antibiotic within one week. Erythromycin is the cheapest antibiotic that is effective, but it requires taking four pills a day for a fortnight. A newer alternative is Azithromycin, which requires just one dose a day for five days.

And a week after developing a Bordetella infection, the cough is embedded so that antibiotics are no longer capable of curing the cough. And the early stages are so mild, most victims don't bother going to see a physician until the disease is embedded and relief from the cough is very difficult.

But, before taking antibiotics, the victim is contagious, and can give Bordetella to others. Five days after starting antibiotics, the victim ceases to be contagious and so can no longer spread the disease.

So, all those who think they might have Bordetella, please go see your physician. And if your culture says you do have Bordetella, insist on a -mycin antibiotic.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Eid Mubarak

I tried to send out Eid greetings last Eid (in Arabic) and failed miserably: instead of Eid I wrote Ghrid.

I'm not sure what Ghrid means, but it certainly doesn't mean Eid.

I, of course, blame my mobile for not knowing what I meant to say when I sent the SMS (in Arabic) to all my Arab friends.

But, when I write in Latin letters, I can be sure I'm wishing Eid Mubarak.

So Eid Mubarak to everyone!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Farook Returns from Umrah

Most Ramadans, Farook takes a week or so early in Ramadan for an Umrah, so I don't see him that first week.

This year, however, Farook was gone for a month, leaving a few days before Ramadan started and coming back the end of the third week of Ramadan. This may be something described by Thessinger in his book, Arabian Sands. Thessinger said that the Arabs he knew always travelled during Ramadan when it came in the summer, because, if one is travelling, one can postpone the Ramadan fast until later, say winter when fasting is much easier.

My very first Ramdan in the UAE, the place where I worked wanted us to learn all about Ramadan and arranged a special iftar with a speaker who would explain the true meaning of Ramadan. This was set up on the first weekend of Ramadan, maybe the third or fourth night. We arrived at the tent, and I followed as everyone filled at least three plates from the open buffet. Then everyone sat staring at the food until the adhan announced that it was officially sunset, and we all began eating. After about half an hour, someone got up on the speaker's platform to read a message from the speaker: that Ramadan is about family, so the speaker was having iftar with his own family, and would not be coming out to speak.

After Ramadan starts, I never see Farook for about a week, for the first week of Ramadan is about sharing iftar and sohour with the extended family. But after that first week, it is time to iftar and sohour with friends, and Farook always insists we have a few iftars together.

I assume, by now, everyone knows that iftar is the meal Muslims take at sunset during Ramadan, the first bit of food and drink since 90 minutes before sunrise. Sohour is the final meal before fasting begins, usually served about two and a half or three hours before sunrise.

Now that he's back, as he has every year since I first met him, Farook invited me to his friend's sohour tent. He takes me once or twice every Ramadan. Every midnight during Ramadan, Farook's friend serves eight goats, all prepared in slightly different ways, to a couple of dozen men who show up. Usually, two goats are on white rice with carrots, two are on a brownish rice with hard boiled eggs, two are on rice with turnips, and two are stuffed with nuts and covered with Arabic bread. The meal also includes some of the beans called foul, some sweets, and the  Ramadan dish called harees, a paste made from wheat and goat. All the goat gets eaten, but the rice and veggies and sweets get left behind.

Farook used to insist on going at 9 pm to visit with the host and to show that we were there for more than just the free goat, but now we go around 11 pm. Most of the guests show up around 11:30 pm to 11:45. Beginning around 9 pm, the host serves Arabic coffee and several kinds of tea: sweetened without milk, sweetened with milk, fenugreek tea and cinnamon tea.

Over the years, I've learned that I quite like goat, which surprised me since I detest mutton, but young goat is a very mild flavoured meat, quite unlike the strong, elderly mutton that is common here, prepared from the ewes who have had the 'change of life' and can no longer produce milk.

So now I've made my annual trip to the sohour tent, with only a few days of Ramadan to spare.

Eid is expected to be this coming Sunday.

I still haven't had an iftar with Farook this year, but we've still got a few days left, so I'm hoping we can manage one iftar, inshallah.