Frantically I darted to the right, back to the left, then desperately dashed towards the fly ball heading in my direction in right field. This position is where the coach usually played me as he explained that it strengthened our team if I stood guard deep in right field. As I rushed forth, arm extended high above my head, the ball soared over my outstretched glove and plunked down at the spot I had just vacated and where for the past hour had been carving my initials in the turf. “You stink!” sneered wee Billy Ramsbottom. “You couldn’t catch a cold if I sneezed on you.” To this I mustered my wittiest retort and let him have it: “Sooooo.” Further defending my honor, I thrust my silver tongue at him, jutting my jaw forward to enhance the effect. My kids, watching from the stands were not amused. But Billy, guess what? I can catch a cold. I am now sitting here with a Jimmy Durante nose, feet in hot water and a voice that sounds like Fran Drescher snorkeling. [Note: Please do not pester your doctor if you simply have a cold. I have now caught a cold from one of you and am so miserable that I may have to go pester my doctor.]
What else could I catch if Billy sneezed on me? What if I could catch cancer or catch a heart attack or an ulcer? Well, recent really relevant research reveals that an infection may actually be the cause for many diseases we previously thought were due to bad habits, bad genes or bad luck. In fact, it appears that an infectious agent may be responsible for diseases that range from the painful bone tumor multiple myeloma to the debilitating multiple sclerosis to multiple kidney stones.
At least two types of cancers have been related to a virus. Though the virus itself is not the cancer, it may promote or trigger cancer. Cancer of the female cervix is related to the human papilloma virus (HPV), the same virus that causes those attractive genital warts. Though it is de test women detest, the Pap smear has saved many thousands of lives. Prior to this screening test becoming a routine (albeit despised) part of a woman’s physical, cervical cancer was a very common cause of death in women of all ages. It appears that a virus has been the culprit. Do condoms protect against HPV and its sequelae of cervical cancer and genital warts? Not necessarily.
Another cancer with a viral link is multiple myeloma, a painful bone tumor of the vertebral column that kills 3 Canadians every day.
Long thought to be caused only by stress, smoking, and being a Canuck fan, it is now recognized that some 8-9 different species of a bacteria known as Helicobacter pylori is a major cause of stomach ulcers. It even appears to be a source of stomach cancer. A simple blood test can reveal whether or not that Maalox muncher in your family has H. pylori. Two weeks of medication and it is usually gone.
Long thought to be only caused by smoking, high blood pressure and being a Canuck fan, some researchers still feel that the common bacteria Chlamydia can get right into the fatty Big Mac plaques that line your coronary arteries. Your body mounts a response to these invaders and the plaque swells up causing blockage of the artery. BOOM!!!
The good news is that if infections cause heart disease and cancers then you may one day be able to be vaccinated against heart attacks, cancer and even… fly ball dropsy.