One Hand Clapping

During my government-funded year in Southeast Asia, fending off the yellow hoarde, keeping our fighting men fit for duty and the world safe for what's become of democracy, I treated a lot of venereal diseases (in Vietnam, not so much; in Thailand, where I spent my last couple of months, daily), some of which I'd barely heard of. Granuloma inguinale, chancroid, lymphogranuloma venereum. Secondary syphillis. Gonorrhea, of course, was numero uno. It led to one of the more amusing medical interchanges I had:

GI: Hey, doc, you know the clap you treated me for? It's back.

Me: You got the drip again?

GI: Yep.

Me: Okay, let's have a look.

GI: (drops his pants, exposing his underwear, with a salad-plate sized aromatic, moist, glistening green scum on the front.)

Me: Wow, that's a hell of a drip, all right.

GI: Yeah, and that's just since Thursday.

(It was Tuesday.)

I bring this up because of an article I just read, apropos to those times, when rumors of The Black Clap were rampant: a version of the clap so deadly, so untreatable, that those that had it were shipped to an island in the China Sea, never to be seen again. On the intake lectures I used to give (it included how to deal with cobras), I addressed it by saying, "It's not true. I've been to the island and it doesn't exist." And handed out condoms.

Well, if the island never existed, the black clap is on our doorstep, a mere four decades later.

So, yes, getting gonorrhea now means that you have to go in and get antibiotics through a needle. And then everyone with whom you've had sex in the last 60 days has to get tested, too.

Once gonorrhea becomes resistant to the last of our cephalosporin antibiotics -- "it's only a matter of time," according to Dr. Gail Bolan, Director of STD Prevention at the CDC in today's announcement -- we will have no treatment. Then when it gets into your bloodstream, it will be lethal.

I always have this sense that someone will figure it out before that time comes, but there is very little research and development going on right now in this area.

No particular point to bringing this up, other than to take our minds off politics for a minute, even if it means thinking about a guy wearing his underwear soaked with green pus for at least five days.

On the other hand, like it or not, it might also get us thinking about the consequences of Rs efforts to block President Obama from mitigating cuts to the CDC (he'd already cut it significantly, truth be told), and how eventually it might even affect people who don't screw without condoms. Consider it an exemplar of radical domestic budget-cutting in so many other areas, to pay for tax cuts and aircraft carriers.

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