Infection Control Today - 09/2002: Microbe of the Month

Microbe of the Month
By Roger P. Freeman, DDS

Gazoontite! Der scnozzle drippen ze grossen. OK, so I'm common. Talk about your pathogen profiling! I also happen to be the most studied bug in bugdom and about the only virus that's on the job, year 'round, worldwide ... a solid epidemic ethic. Remember that when your throat is scratchy, eyes are watering, head is pounding, nose is Rudolph red and you're launching aerial scuds toward your nearest and dearest. Not to mention the outpouring of -- no, not sympathy -- let's just call it "sub nares discharge of an olfactory kind." (Your kids would call it something else, probably not rhinorrhea.)

I'm strictly a humanitarian, one of 100-plus viral cousins known to cause my common-ness. A billion cases every year; $5 billion in o/c drugs; 22 million lost school days; 50 million days of "reduced activity," and these are just U.S. stats. Imagine my big picture numbers! I may not be front page in Mortality News, but I'm huge on the morbidity circuit. I get around via aerial ah-choo-choo, direct ickos and sometimes on that keyboard, telephone or Playskool set. I'm fond of the chronologically challenged, epecially the less than fives.

I hang (so to speak) just north of the epiglottis, frequently taking Route Sicksty-Sicks from eyeballs to lacrimal duct to nasal passage, where I generate the highest concentration of PIM (especially that cute little schlumpen der nosen.) Grandma would like you to believe wearing your coat and galoshes, eating your veggies and exercising will spare you my gifts. Probably not, although some say stress reduction may help. Stress in 5-year-olds?

Prevention? You know the drill, those old saws, handwashing and broken COT. Treatment? Load up on PDR pals for some relief; or ignore me if you can. Either way, I gotcha for a week to 10 days. Linus (the one with the PhD) believed a pound or so of vitamin C daily would help the noseland security. Show me.

For lifetime immunity or a real nice gift, whichever you are closest to seeing in your lifetime, name me and my most common condition.

Roger P. Freeman, DDS, is a dental infection control consultant and president of Infectious Awareables, at

E-mail your answers to, including your name, title and the name and location of your healthcare facility. The names of the first 25 readers supplying the correct answer will be placed in a quarterly drawing for infection control-related prizes from Infectious Awareables and Glo Germ Company. The answers to last month's mystery microbe are Heliobacter pylori and peptic ulcers. For archived Microbe of the Month columns, log on to:

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