COVID-19: Don’t Panic, Just Spread That Peanut Butter please

As the shit is hitting the fan (hence the crazy stockpiling of toilet paper), our current pandemic world relies on YOU! Yes, you. Usually people wait for the government and scientists to solve the problem. Now, YOU are the key figure in containing COVID-19.

And I’ll coach you through it.

COVID-19 tip #1: Forget the numbers

The actual numbers don’t mean much in the middle of an epidemic. Tests for COVID-19 are sparse almost everywhere. Who knows how many people are actually infected? South Korea is said to be a dangerous place because they have a lot of infections. But actually; South Korea did a great job testing its population and are one of the few countries where the amount of new infections per day is going down. In other countries it’s still rising every day. (
In countries where they barely test, like the USA, or where they don’t test family members of infected person, like the Netherlands, the numbers might indicate that they have fewer infections than factually would be the case.
Is it safer to go to countries with lower numbers? Or is it more dangerous because people are walking around unaware of their infection and that they are infecting other people?

Numbers are meaningless unless you know the proportion of people that has been tested.

9 infected on a total of 10 tested: bad.

9 infected on a total of 100.000 tested: still bad, but less bad.

COVID-19 tip #2: Think about the implications

Let’s talk about you. You might feel fine. Great. You might think you won’t get sick. Cool, I hope you are right. You might even think that when infected with COVID-19 you will be ok. Well, good for you! Maybe you’ll just have a sore throat. Aaaah. You think you can go to work with a small fever and a cough. Wow, aren’t you a tough one. Or why not bring your kid to the daycare, kids have runny noses all the time. And if you or your kids do get COVID-19, you might be really sick, but you won’t die. What are the chances?

You are ok, you’ll manage, the kids will be fine, so no worries … ERRRRRRRRRRRR (the sound of a game show buzzer indicating that something is wrong).

Who do you meet during the day? Do you bring your children to their grandparents for a day? Do you visit that birthday party? With or without (mild) symptoms you, yes YOU, are a small but very important ‘number’ who influences the implications: the spread of the outbreak.

Think about the implications of your actions and behavior. Think twice, and don’t do what you would normally do.

You want to know why this helps governments, scientists and especially hospitals?

COVID-19 tip# 3: Just Spread the Peanut Butter

You might have seen the picture of this post in newspapers or online. Don’t we all keep refreshing our news feeds in an unhealthy way? But it is important, so I am also going to explain it, my way:

Think of Peanut Butter, imagine that the Peanut Butter is the COVID-19 infected people.

Think of slices of bread, imagine that the slices of bread are the region where you live.

Think of a mouth, imagine that mouth is your regional hospital.

What happens when you feed all the Peanut Butter in the jar to a mouth in one go? The mouth can’t handle it. The mouth can’t swallow the load. Peanut Butter falls on the floor.

What if people with no or mild symptoms infect a huge vulnerable group at the same time? They go the regional hospital. Some end up in an intensive care unit. The hospital in your town will be full quickly, the other ones in the region as well. The hospitals needs to make choices, they save people that have the most chance of survival.
What happens to the Peanut Butter that fell on the floor? It’s gone.

What do people mean with the picture? What do people mean with “flattening the curve”?

Spread the Peanut Butter on the slices of bread. Feed the Peanut Butter bread bite by bite to the mouth.

You are part of this. Together with all your relatives, neighbors and colleagues you hold the knife. The knife represents your actions, the knife represents your behavior.

In an epidemic it’s unavoidable that people get seriously ill. Flattening the curve – or Spreading the Peanut Butter – means that instead of causing many people to be sick at the same time, the people will get sick divided over a longer stretch of time. It is the difference between overloading hospitals which then must choose who lives and dies, and helping the hospitals to manage the outbreak.

You can flatten the curve. Just Spread the Peanut Butter:

– Wash your hands

– Social distancing: Avoid social contacts and crowds unless needed (you need groceries, shopping for a new skirt can wait)

– if you have symptoms, ANY symptoms, even just “a runny nose”, stay home!

– If your child has symptoms, (just a runny nose): keep that child at home. Don’t let it go to school, don’t let it play with friends and definitely don’t send that child to grandparents or other people in the vulnerable group.

Good luck everybody, stay safe!


Illustration: SAM WHITNEY; CDC


Outbreak of the measles, SURPRISE? Not really

If you don’t vaccinate your children, they are bound to get infected. And yet, the whole world is amazed by the outbreaks of the measles. News feeds from USA, Europe, Philippines and developing countries have been breaking stories all around. Pictures of sweet little children covered in red spots are collecting likes and dislikes everywhere. But seriously, why the surprise? This is exactly what was to be expected.

It’s real simple action-reaction. We let ignorant parents decide against lifesaving vaccinations (action), the immunization coverage drops in a region, et voilà, an outbreak emerges (reaction). Let me give an example that even the most reluctant anti-vax parent should understand.
If you promise your birthday girl a Frozen themed party, but last-minute you cancel it and you burn the Princess Elsa dress in front of her eyes (action); your kid will cry (reaction).
If you promise her that she will have a healthy life, but you are not vaccinating her; your kid may become deaf, blind, get brain swelling or pneumonia, and these are only the long-term effects of measles. What would she say to her parents when after a life of struggles she gets to celebrate her 18th birthday; ‘thank you and let it go’ in sign language?

One mother asked on Twitter how she could protect her unvaccinated daughter against the measles outbreak in her town. It was a serious question. The mother’s post went viral and luckily for the right reason, she was ridiculed. Something along these lines: ‘don’t worry, just bathe her on the seventh night of full moon in a cocktail of 75% tomato juice, 20% biological bleach, 4% morning pee of a virgin mother, 1% stardust with a hint of basil, while singing Heal the World in B-minor and she’ll be fine …’.

How are people still not understanding how things work? Maybe we should ask Disney to make a movie about it, where no princess is vaccinated, a bad prince causes an epidemic and all the princesses die so there will be no kingdoms and fairytales anymore, only republics, presidents and prime ministers. Wow, certain hit in the cinema’s, expected December 2019 in all Imax theaters in 3D: ‘Beauties and the Measles’.

One more time:

  1. Vaccinations prevent horrible disease outbreaks to emerge (also read: polio, tetanus, rabies)
  2. Vaccinations prevent death in both children and adults
  3. Vaccinations are only useful BEFORE the child/person gets sick
  4. Vaccinations do NOT cause autism (f*cking Wakefield!)
  5. Vaccinations are safe for your children
  6. Not vaccinating your child means that you put the lives of your and other children at risk.

If you disagree with any of these statements than please read my previous blog about the facts about vaccinations. And let me warn you, if we continue down this selfdestructive path, more outbreaks will follow.

Who knows, maybe that’s a good thing. We might get to see ‘Diphtheria and the Seven Dwarfs’ or ‘LEGO Movie 3: It’s a smallpox after all’.

Happy Christmas Diarrhea

The holiday season is upon us with presents, family and lots and lots of food. At least, where I come from, this period is a time where we start eating on Christmas eve and continue until the new year has safely arrived. This sounds all happy and cheerful and festive but there is a possible downside to this long dining and that is: diarrhea.

Gin-Toxin, Bacteria-Cola, White-(Vi)Russian, what’s the difference?

I’ve told you before and I’ll tell you again, it’s very important to know what is actually causing your disease because it influences how you treat it. However, all diarrheal diseases need you to drink a lot (no alcohol you party people, water!) and be the most hygienic person in the world.

Family: caring is sharing

Most diarrheal diseases are caused by viruses like norovirus and rotavirus. Especially in children this can cause severe illness. The history is usually a child that got diarrhea at nursery and then the mother got it, siblings, daddy, etc etc. Really nasty, easy to transmit to others and basically nothing we can do about it but wait the 3-10 days it takes for your body to stop the virus. Keep drinking, don’t put any antidiarrheal medication in you and wash your hands as thoroughly as you can after every toilet visit.

Choose wisely

If you get vomiting and diarrhea within 24 hours after you ate something “bad”, that’s usually a toxin from a bacteria (mostly Staph aureus). A bacteria needs time to settle into your digestive system so it will not cause disease that fast but a toxin is nasty right from the start. The scenario would be something like a nice Christmas dinner with lots of family. There is food on the table which is not entirely cooked through or the Dutch tradition: “gourmetten” where you cook your own food on a miniature stove on the table. The food is on or next to some sort of heating system which is like a nice fireplace for the bacteria to get cosy in front of in your meat (and duplicate like crazy). And then you eat it. Hours later you wake up nauseous, you run to the toilet, you vomit. And again, and again. Sometimes you get the diarrhea immediately in which case you need to decide what to put in the toilet, your vomit or the diarrhea. Choose wisely. After about 24 hours the misery stops and leaves you drained but healthy.

Give yourself an after-Christmas treat

A bacteria takes time, about 3 days give or take, to cause the same symptoms. People think about the past day but can’t name anything about their diet that could have caused this horrible disease. But then you dig deeper and it’s actually three days past Christmas and they remember their big diner, gourmetten, etc. And then you know: this is probably salmonella (or shigella, campylobacter or any other bacterial disease). You can wait till your body clears it by itself or if you have fever you can get some antibiotics. Only three days of antibiotics restores your body.

Lovely readers, I wish you all the best for Christmas and the new year but remember to cook your food all the way through. And if you are one of the many sufferers after the holidays: drink enough and power through. I’ll see you in the new year.

A new hope

It’s been one year since my very first post. Over the past year I have thrown some random topics into the world all related to my true love: infectious diseases (ok, except for husband and children). But we’re a year further now and it’s time to get some more direction in where we need to go in life. Over the year I noticed what interested you most and what I enjoyed writing about most so that combination will be the focus in this brand new year. Drum roll please….

  1. Vaccinations

You probably know by now that I am a huge fan of vaccines. They are wonderful things that prevent so much agony and death that I still don’t understand why this discussion is even starting. But it is.

The religious arguments I sort of understand. However, the reason “god will save my child” always reminds me of this joke. There is a man that just had a shipwreck and he is floating in the big ocean hoping for God to save him. After a while a boat comes up to him and offers to get him aboard. “No thank you”, the man answers, “God will save me”. After a day another boat comes and again the man declines help saying the god will save him. After rejecting the third boat the man drowns. He goes to heaven and upon meeting God he asks, “God, why didn’t you save me?”, God answers “I send you three boats you moron”.

The educated vaccines-are-poison and vaccines-cause-death people I don’t get. Arguments don’t count for them. They stopped listening to science. In this topic I will keep enlightening you about facts about vaccines and the diseases prevented by them.

  1. How your body works

So many times my husband asks me “it hurts here *pointing somewhere on his abdomen* what is there?”. Or tells me “my kidneys and liver are hurting me”. And I just sigh, give him a kiss and a paracetamol and tell him everything will be ok. But honestly, so many people have no idea how their bodies actually work. What is pain? Or itching? What is a spleen and pancreas? Why do you need them? And, probably will attract the most readers, what about sex? How does a penis work? Can you urinate while it’s erected? What is the prostate? How can women ejaculate (need to do some extra research on this…)? Well, all these questions will be answered in this topic.

  1. News

Infectious diseases sometimes hit the news. A big flu epidemic inspired the “8 things you thought you knew about the flu”. Or the whole antibiotic resistance crisis that is on our doorstep. If it’s in the news, it’s nice to know a little bit more about the subject to make sure you are well prepared to impress your co-workers, friends or significant others. In this topic I will discuss something that’s in the news at that moment.

There you have it. Nicely organized three topics that I will alternate to make sure all of you get what you want. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you find, you get what you need.

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