Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Where's Muriel? Parasite attack

If any of you are suffering a Muriel deficiency - and I know I am - she's not a well girl at all. At first the doctor thought she had malaria, but now he says it's tick-bite fever. The last sms I got from her said, 'I'm so fucking sick of feeling so fucking sick' - poor old Mur. I am hoping to speak to her tomorrow and will send you more news.

I once had tick-bite fever, and I've never felt so ill in my life. It was worse than childbirth au naturel . I woke up moaning (after a heavy night of carousing with friends) with the nastiest headache of my life, and received not an ounce of sympathy from the comatose bodies draped all over my house, whose only comment was that I shouldn't have drunk so much. No amount of Coke and aspirin helped.

Twenty-four hours laters my neck had seized completely and my head was so sore I thought I was having a stroke. Then I noticed a black spot on my big toe, and after a spot of Net surfing realised I might have tick-bite fever. (I'd stayed with friends at a cattle and game ranch in the Northern Province of South Africa a few weeks earlier). An antibiotic quickly cleared it up but I felt shocking for months afterwards.

There are quite a few nasty lurgies you can pick up from parasites in South Africa as as a whole, including tick-bite fever, malaria, bilharzia (schistosomiasis) and, further up in Africa, Leishmaniasis, Elephantiasis, and the disgusting Guinea worm disease (Dracunculiasis), which - have you had your dinner yet? - involves a worm hatching in your flesh. It grows up to three feet long. A burning blister or ulcer appears on your legs, and a few days later the worm pokes its head out, blinking and looking bewildered, I imagine.

The normal way to rid oneself of the worm is to wind the head around a stick, and give the stick a turn every day. After a few excruciating weeks, the entire worm emerges, centimetre by centimetre, like a piece of wet spaghetti. Interestingly (I discovered this a few years ago when I wrote a magazine feature about parasitic diseases) it's thought that the worm-round-a-stick cure, which has been used for millennia, might be the origin of the staff-and-serpent symbol of medicine - the Rod of Asclepius.

Then there's the revolting putzi or mango fly, which lays its eggs in damp clothes. After a while, pustules appear on your skin, and the maggots pop out. Nice, eh? You don't get these much in South Africa, but when I was a baby in Zambia, everything I wore was ironed twice with a very hot iron to kill any eggs. The way to kill a worm is to cover the pustule (isn't that a a great word?) with Vaseline (petroleum jelly), which suffocates the little bastard.

How on earth did I get on to this topic? Oh, Muriel.

If you have a cheering message for her, post it here, and I'll forward it to her.

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meggie said...

Holy crap, I turn my back for 10 seconds, & Muriel gets sick??!
I hope she is better soon, I have been missing her cheery humour.
I hope whatever it is gets sorted out pronto.

angel said...

aw poor thing...!!!?! give her a hug from me!