The big D

Ransom Riggs

OK, this might be a tad unsavory, but I promise, it gets flossy on down the line. You see, I've been sick the past few days. (Apparently there's "something going around" Los Angeles; I guess we're a bit more connected than we think we are.) It started out as your average fever-with-chills, with some loss of appetite (I know, I know: feed a fever and drink like a fish -- thanks, Mom) and a side-order of Texas-sized headache every time I tried to get out of bed or do anything besides light blogging or watching Sopranos re-runs. The last time I was this sick, I got food poisoning at John Green's wedding, though I didn't realize it until about midway through the ceremony, whereupon I promptly passed out during his vows. That was both the only time I've ever lost consciousness that quickly, and the single most embarrassing moment of my young life. (Though I'm sure something will come along to top it one of these days.)

Food poisoning, of course, runs its course fairly quickly in comparison to some viral infections, which is what I surmise is going on within my war-wracked shell of a body. Not having much recent experience with the latter, I was expecting the worst to be over when my fever subsided yesterday and I began to gradually get my energy back. Then came the second wave: the big D. That's right: diphtheria. (Just kidding, the other D.)

It may sound comical to we Westerners, with all our adequate access to hygienic sanitation facilities and clean drinking water, not to mention our joking grade-school rhymes ("When you're comin' round first, and you feel something burst ...") -- but the big D is far from a laughing matter in developing nations. Here are some sobering facts:

"¢ It's the cause of 5 to 8 million deaths in the developing world annually, particularly among small children and infants. "¢ The inability to properly separate drinking water from contaminated sewage is a major cause of infection. "¢ As evidence of how seriously the sanitation issue is, yesterday in Delhi, India representatives from 40 nations gathered to participate in a "World Toilet Conference." They hope to identify inexpensive technologies that can help bring proper sanitation to nearly half the world's population. "¢ According to estimates, 2.6bn people around the world lack access to a hygienic toilet. "¢ In India alone, more than 700 million people have no access to toilets which have proper waste disposal systems. "¢ In 1991, a cyclone claimed more than 139,000 lives along the Bangladeshi coast. The same year, 300,000 Bangladeshi children died from diarrheal dehydration. "¢ The best rehydration formula is a mixture of water, salts and a bit of sugar -- essentially, Gatorade. (Why aren't we sending Gatorade to developing nations instead of dumping it on football coaches' heads?)

If anyone's brave enough to share their own stories about the big D, I'm sure they'd make me feel a heckuva lot better!