I’ve been mistakenly giving credit to medical science for conquering a multitude of illnesses that were once common and now seem to be completely obliterated. For instance, I had friends in the last century who suffered from carbuncles, a painful affliction that I never hear about anymore, so I thought it had been eliminated.

But then I realized there had never been news of a National Carbuncle Institute with fund-raising events like Carbuncle Walks and 5K runs and there was no dramatic announcement of the discovery of a carbuncle cure or immunization.

So I did a little checking and found that carbuncles are still painfully out there. They haven’t been eliminated, they’ve been renamed. We call them “boils” now. The same goes for old-fashioned afflictions like the croup which is today’s laryngitis or strep throat. Lumbago is now just lower back pain and Quincy is severe tonsillitis. The grippe has become the flu which is under control to some extent, especially for those getting their annual shots.

No one gets hay fever anymore since they found hay isn’t the only vegetation causing the allergic reaction of sneezing and wheezing. Instead, a wide variety of pollens are irritating our nostrils and eyelids. The technical name is now pollinosis.

Pneumonia is still around without a name change and there are innoculations available to protect us, but what about double pneumonia which my mother warned me about so often?

“You can’t go out dressed like that on a snowy day! You’ll catch double pneumonia!” she’d say, and then make me put on a scarf and a heavy sweater under my mackinaw. I was the only kid out in the blizzard who was sweating profusely. I hope now they have a double shot for double pneumonia.

I’m sure the renaming of diseases was not part of a conspiracy, but just an attempt to update the terminology and make it more precise. Most young people, unless they’re history buffs, have never heard the melodramatic old affliction names like falling sickness (epilepsy), lockjaw (tetanus), and consumption (tuberculosis).

However, we must avoid being duped by scammers asking for contributions to fight ficticious diseases, some of which were invented by novelists and screenwriters. “We’re asking for your help in combatting the deadly Montaba Fever,” one caller said. I recognized that as the ficticious fatal disease in the move “Outbreak” and I was quite sure Dustin Hoffman had found a remedy. I said I would be happy to donate $50 and, after a slight pause, the scammer said, “Sir, the credit card name you gave me doesn’t exit.”

“Yes, I know,” I replied. “And I’d like to donate another $50 to the Saint Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries as recommended by Doctor Harry Potter.”


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