Endemic, Epidemic, Pandemic: Semantic

Doctors have this habit of using a different vocabulary, making easy things sound very complicated. An example: ‘melena can be an indication of peptic ulceration’ actually means ‘blood out of your ass can be caused by stomach ulcers’. Why use difficult words: a. the doctor wants to sound very important and smart or b. they just don’t know the subject well enough to explain it in normal words. Or, as it said on one of the tiles on the wall at grandma’s house: ‘It takes an assbleeder to talk about assbleeders’.
Even in this blog we go over so many infections and sometimes I can get lost in the semantics. So, this time no specific infection, it’s just about how you can sound smart whilst taking about them.


Endemic refers to a disease or condition that takes place in a specific region. For instance, Malaria is endemic in sub Saharan Africa but is not endemic in Europe. At least, not any more. Some diseases become endemic in new places all the time, the flu for example or the common cold. Other endemic conditions don’t move unfortunately: like the scraping throats and spitting on the floor at 5AM at our neighbor’s place in Thailand. Endemic as such is in short not something to be really scared about, especially when you take precautions (anti-malaria pills, flu-shot, earplugs)


Turning it up a notch. Epidemic means that in a period of time, more cases than expected in a community/area/season are suffering from the same condition or are infected with a specific disease. Scary stuff right. For instance, the epidemic of Ebola in 2014. Or obesity in America. By the way, a different word for epidemic is ‘Outbreak’. Remember that movie with Dustin Hoffman? That sweet little monkey – a real one, not mr. Hoffman – that turned out to be a real badass decease carrier? Outbreak = epidemic. Choose whatever sounds more spectacular.


Now the real trouble is when an Epidemic becomes a Pandemic, in which case the infection has spread worldwide. We’ve seen this, for instance, in the H1N1 time. More notorious examples are the Black Death pandemic (1346-1353: up to 200 Million deaths), the (Spanish) Flu pandemic (1918 – up to 50 Million deaths) and the HIV/AIDS Pandemic (peak 2005-2012 – 36 Million deaths)

Another movie example, watch ‘Contagion’ and you’ll understand what I’m talking about (really nice movie actually with Matt Damon and Jude Law… need I say more?). Storyline summary: ‘As the contagion spreads to millions of people worldwide, societal order begins to break down as people panic.’ Panic! If you do, you know you’re experiencing a Pandemic… Other movie must sees in this genre are Twelve monkeys (not about twelve monkeys) and World War Z.


All these terms are very important for people that study diseases, epidemiologists. You might need some practice to master that word. I followed a masters in epidemiology and my husband still can’t pronounce it different than “epidedemology”, or something like that. Anyway, an epidemiologist studies how a disease behaves, spreads, etc. It is not that I am wearing a T-Shirt that says “I Love Pandemics”, … but that is only because I didn’t find it yet…

There you have it, some new words to drop in any conversation when you’re ordering beers at a bar and try to impress someone. Choose your words wisely though, nobody wants to know about the Endemics in your pants, the Epidemic fail you had at work or the Pandemic boxes you want to open… 


When sex becomes more than just fun

Sex is fun, well, it should be, at least most of the time. That first moment when everything is new and exciting. You get caught in the moment and before you know it: a) you’re back on the street at 01.00 at night and the hangover just started b) you wake up at 7.30, smelling the others breath and think Why o Why? Or c) you fall in love and 15 years later have two children and write a blog on infectious diseases…

But although the sex was fun (most of the time), sometimes you’re reminded that you forgot something. Maybe it was the last thing on your mind, maybe you trusted the person you were with. What did you “forget”: a Condom. What is the name of that kind reminder: Sexual Transmitted Diseases, in short STD. 
Most of us are lucky we didn’t attract them, some are still thinking they were lucky and others, well they were less fortunate and got infected.

Let’s look at the STD’s/infectious diseases you don’t want to get after your fun night of sex and what the risk of getting it is. And for your benefit: I ranked it from most to least common.

1. Genital Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

In first place, winner of the golden medal during the Ugliest STD-Olympics, leading the charts of the most common STD has to be: Genital Warts. Dreaded by all of us (if not, you have a rare fetish). But most of us are actually already infected with this without having any symptoms. Worse yet, this is a virus that can cause cervical cancer in women and anal cancer in men (who got the infection by having sex with another man, the virus doesn’t travel from your penis to your anus). Bad news: once you have it, you never lose it. Good news: we have a vaccine nowadays so we can protect our children from getting these cancers through this virus. Vaccines save our day!

2. Chlamydia

A very contagious runner up which most of us will know. It gives you discharge (for women different than normal, for man: you will know it is not semen). Women are the unlucky ones, because they can become infertile without ever having had symptoms. So, men and women: if you find out you have this, please let each other (or when you had a “busy” month: all of them) know. Easily cured with antibiotics, one pill and you’re done!

3. Trichomoniasis

The bronze medal goes to…Tri…Trichomo… Trichomonisch… sorry what? Trichomoniasis. This STD is unkown by many, but good chance you or someone you know has had it without even knowing it. Not deadly, no infertility, bad itchings and smell, but most don’t need medication. So boring, NEXT!

4. Gonorrhea

Good old Gonorrhea, just missed the top 3 but that doesn’t ruin the fun for this fella. Men come with a nice discharge from the penis or pus – big surprise coming up – in their knee, I know, their knee…. This doesn’t mean they did something like “Kneeing” somebody, but the bacteria likes to travel to a joint. We can treat this with antibiotics, for now at least.

5. Genital Herpes

Ouch. Just so painful to even look at this. Really contagious, just think of the cold sore a lot of people suffer from, it’s the same virus. The thing with Herpes is that if the lesions are located on a different spot than what the condom covers, you can get infected. But the infected person will know he has lesions – crusted spots – so if he/she is really as nice as you say, they will tell you… Maybe check it while you’re down there… Cause you can never get rid of it, it will go away for a while, … until it’s back again.

6. Syphilis

The great mimicker who actually is getting back in the race now that people aren’t scared of attracting HIV any more. Classically, you get sick in 3 stages. First stage is an ulcer that doesn’t hurt and goes away eventually. Some will not even notice this first stage. Second stage is a skin rash that also involves your palms and footpad, will also go away in time. If that doesn’t lure you to a doctor yet, stage 3 is neurosyphilis: when it hits your brain. Yep, this little guy deserves a blog of his own. For now, let’s just say that if you have it (tested in blood), antibiotics will cure you.

7. Hepatitis B

Depending on where you live this virus can be anywhere in the top 10. For example, most developed countries won’t have a lot of patients. There is a high chance of getting this, especially when there’s blood involved, easy peasy anal sex will do. Why? As you may know, the anus is not made to be stretched that way. Micro tears will turn up and they bleed. Blood contact with someone who is infected with hepatitis B gives you about 30% chance of getting it. This virus infects your liver and turns you yellow. Difficult to treat if you get the chronic version of the infection. So maybe at least wear a condom when doing anal sex or when your partner is menstruating? (or maybe without the question mark).

8. Human Immunodeficiency Virus

And last but certainly not least. HIV. Most famous, but actually you have a very small chance of getting. And with modern medicine it is even less. Why is it still so nasty: it is incurable. Not a death sentence anymore – especially in the Western countries – like it was in the 80’s, more like a very nasty chronic illness that requires you to take medication. For some easy with one pill once a day, every day, for the rest of your life, for others more troublesome.

There you have it, the 8 most common Sexual Transmitted Diseases. Some are easily attracted, but also easily cured. Others are more complicated in every way. The bottom line is that you have to know you have it.
Let’s not judge each other, none of us are saints. If you had an “accident”, just go see your doctor and get tested. Nobody will think you’re a slut or stupid, trust me, we’ve seen it all many times (and far worse). Let’s make sex just about fun!

8 Things you thought you knew about the flu

Flu season is upon us. Many will stay at home with their runny noses, sore throats and sad little coughs. Others will push through the misery, but will subsequently infect all their co-workers. And for sure many will have some grandmothers’ wisdom, or some google results telling them how to prevent or cure the flu. Well, look no further. Time to dive into 8 things you thought you knew about flu, but guess what: you are probably wrong…

1. You can cure the flu with antibiotics

Really? We’re not getting back in to this right? Read the previous blogs! Nope, not doing it again. … Ok, just this time, the summary: the flu is a virus (influenzavirus), antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. There. Done. Can we drop this now please?

2. You can’t get immune for the flu

Hmm, difficult fact. Because basically you can. For your immune system to recognize a virus, picture that they need to recognize a 100 digit code (think of ten back-to-back phone numbers). If all 100 digits are recognized, you don’t get sick. If your immune system has seen the virus before, it will remember all those digits easily and rapidly. But there is a difficulty with the flu, the virus changes a lot every season. As if you are still wearing soft denims and velvet dresses. Hello? Soooo 2016. When only one digit is different, the puzzle is solved rather quickly, you get a runny nose for one day and that’s it. But what if ten digits (one phone number) are different? Then it takes time. You can get immune for the flu that you had, but you might encounter a different one this year.

3. The flu shot works/the flu shot doesn’t work

Both facts are true, so both fact are false. I know, it’s a mindf@#k, crazy world we live in. Again, the flu changes every season. The flu shot is a calculated guess on what viruses will be targeting us this year, giving you about five different flu virus digit combinations for your immune system to remember. Seeing that it’s a guess, you can still get the flu. However, with the flu shot, your immune system will have a lot more digits right at the first try. This means that if you had the flu shot and still get the flu, you’re less sick then you would have been without the shot. It is like coming to a party in a black dress, but everyone is wearing colored padded dresses. At least you wore a dress.

4. The flu shot gives you the flu

The whole idea of a vaccine is that you get immune without getting the disease. So no, this is not true. The viruses in the flu shot are dead or better, inactivated. They just serve as a practice for your immune system. They can’t do anything else. You know someone who got the flu after a shot? Well that’s obviously possible, since you’re surrounded by viruses.

5. H1N1 was a hoax organized by the pharmaceutical industry

The whole H1N1 hysteria resulted from the fact that this particular virus had a lot of different digits. People would get very sick, very fast and could (and did) die. Maybe the pharmaceutical companies benefitted in the end, but the threat was real. No hoax.

For the real nerds (like me): the H and N stand for the proteins “Hemagglutinin” and “Neuramidase”, they live on the surface of the virus and differ all the time (the 100 digits). 

6. Everyone has had the real flu at least once in their life

My husband would ask: what is real? But he is in that philosophical stage in life that all close-to-forty-year-old men are in. So, let’s stick with my answer: everyone has had the real flu? No. N. O. Definitely no. The real flu makes you so sick! Just ask the people that suffered the Spanish Flu in 1918. Oh, wait you can’t, they died.

7. You can catch the flu by going outside in the cold with a short skirt

That’s at least what my mother tried to convince me off in order to get me to wear trousers. Although a short skirt can get you in all sorts of trouble (no, not deserved), it won’t give you a higher risk of getting the flu. You can get the flu if you, with your mini skirt on, go to a bar with a lot of people that cough in your face or, better yet, put their face on your face.

8. Chicken soup cures the flu

Well, maybe partly true. Just the fact that someone takes care of you might make you feel better. And the warm liquid in your throat helps as well. And a foot-massage. And a Friends marathon. And chocolate. But not really.

So let’s stop whining and accept things as they are. Stay at home not because you’re so sick (“man flu” doesn’t count) but because you don’t want to infect others. Cough in your hand, not somebody’s face. Get the flu shot and be happy you can get it. Put on your mini skirt (yes, also the guys can if they want) and dance until this season is over.

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