Learning medicine from Tom Clancy

What he says is true, but it’s also true that you’re forever washing your hands when caring for a baby, and I’m loath to accept unverified medical information from novels. So how about it? How much truth is there to this quote?

How much truth? Not much. A grain or two of truth perhaps, but with wildly inappropriate extrapolations proceeding from there.

My advice: Don’t learn medicine from Tom Clancy. Heck, Michael Crichton and Robin Cook were physicians, and I’d not recommend paying too much attention to the medicine they put in their novels, either.

Thank you, Qadgop. The parts that are correct–mumps, chicken pox–is it that we adults get screwed over by our own, more powerful, immune systems? (I’m thinking of things like anaphylaxis or rheumatic fever, where the body destroys the village in order to save it.) Or is this a complex matter that varies with the disease, and can’t really be explained in less than a textbook?

I try to learn wherever I go; good ideas are found in the unlikeliest places.

The first thing I think of when hearing about the wonderful robust immune system of children (IANADoctor) is the rate of death of up-to-5-years of age children, which is used as a standard of how good or bad a country’s healthcare is by the WHO and other organisations; and that common diseases like salmonella or diarrhea, while affecting adults, can cause death for small children (and the elderly).

I think this is a common meme because people don’t remember or see the many children that die from childhood diseases.
It’s like the other popular meme, that people in other countries are used to the bacteria there (partly true) and thus can eat rotten food or tainted water without ill effects that would cause diarrhea or worse to a western tourist. While it’s true to a degree that people will get used to the local mild bacteria, this meme ignores or forgets that people in 3 world countries with bad water supplies etc. become resistant to the serious bacteria because most of them die off early from those diseases, leaving only the rest alive. So it’s not an individual getting used to typhus, but a population, by the weaker dying. (The same way Europeans “got used” to the Black Plague: one third of the population died, the rest seems to have had a very small mutation).

Uh-huh. So all those kids who died or were crippled for life by polio were an illusion. Not to mention all who perished from typhoid, measles, smallpox, yellow fever, plague and “all the rest”. In Clancy’s nostalgic dream world those incredibly powerful infant and childhood immune systems vanquished infectious diseases on a near-universal basis, and it’s only now that we’ve gone soft with vaccines and other public health measures.

He should spend time in countries in Africa and other Third World places to see just how wonderful the natural order of things is.