Epidemics Doggerel



It's always changing -- one successful bout doesn't preclude another.

You can catch it from your neighborhood chicken, pig, or even your mother.

Not caused by the influence of the stars,

But possibly a runny nose or a pig named Lars.

Its DNA is wound in long, spiral chains

That attach to RBCs and cause you great pains.

President Ford created a national faux pas,

When his vaccine campaign increased Guillain-Barré.

Although medical science has come far of late,

We're still not prepared for influenza outbreak number eight!

Laura Silbert, Cassandra McElfish, Susan Shelton



(aka Poliomyelitis or Infantile Paralysis)

If you went swimming with something creepy,

Afterwards, just make sure you are not sleepy.

Although 99 percent are benign,

You should always be aware of the signs.

Though years ago FDR was affected,

There are very few cases detected.

The poor folks afflicted with these few cases

Have to go through life wearing steel braces.

When you think of Jonas Salk,

Many can thank him for being able to walk.

Craig Grass, Molly DeFreese, Kathy Larson



It is brought by a bevy of lice,

And if you get it, it sure isn't nice.

When you're crowded and haven't had a bath,

It's sure to wreak its wrath.

For the germ is one of the Rickettsia --

When it's around it can get the best of ya!

Causing a disease called Typhus --

If you get it, don't give it to us!

Karyn Dahline, Rachel Murphy, Laura Greene, Kelley Brooks


Cholera (1)

Vibrio Cholerae is /s its name,

A comma shaped bacilli of dubious fame.

It made quite a mess

When it left Bangladesh --

It moved out West,

And became quite a pest.

Kris Cassan, Jennifer Babin, Ed Dahlstrom, Tricia Brock


Cholera (2)

A New Disease Strikes Europe

Look in the water and see your reflection,

But remember it may carry a nasty infection.

For centuries the Bengalis kept this disease to themselves,

Then it traveled by train like mischievous elves.

The germ for this disease was called Vibrio cholerae -

When people got it they surely did not say hurrah.

It brought to its victims dehydration, diarrhea, and shock,

Along with muscle spasms and vomiting - "This is a crock,"

Said the people of Europe in about 1830,

When this epidemic arrived - and it sure wasn't pretty.

Bill Youngs

Cholera (3)

"The vandals took the handle!" That's what they might say,

But John Snow is a hero, when we think of him today!

Cholera was a nasty disease, one of the worst the germies made,

But then we conquered it by living clean and drinking Gatorade.

Bill Youngs

Syphilis (1)

Syphilis, No trick to this,

Nasty disease,

French, Spanish, Italian, German --

Everybody's disease.

But no one wants to squeeze,

This Myth of Syphilis,

Itchy, scratchy, a rash,

That can't be cured,

By a bath.

1970s the aftermath,

Killing two of every million Americans,

Gotta pay the dividends,

To this syphilis,

No trick to this....

Syphilis (2)

(This one has this stage direction: "Loudly and with great presence"

which is exactly how the young woman representing this group read it!)

Oh syphilis, syphilis why are you here?

Nobody wants you -- you're eating my ear.

No one will claim you, you unpopular chap.

I wonder what's worse, you or the clap?

You gave me the gift of some nice runny ulcers,

Too bad we can't manufacture any cultures.

If only I'd known you were spiral bacterium,

I might have avoided this late-stage delirium.

I'll cure with mercury what I got from Venus.

But was it really worth losing my ....... ?

Karyn Dahline, Rachel Murphy, Laura Greene, Kelley Brooks



I think I caught the Hanta from a mouse that's in my car.

I think it's from Korea -- he's traveled very far.

It's given me a fever and my lungs all filled with blood.

His droppings filled my backseat -- I thought it was just crud.

Kelley Brooks, Rachel Murphy, Karyn Dahline, Holly McIntyre


Lyme Disease

The Saga of the Lyme Microbe

These spirochete are nasty critters.

We don't eat them like potato fritters.

In fact they make a meal of us,

Traveling far and wide just to hear us cuss.


Their favorite vector is the small "deer tick"

A misnamed critter whose usual trick,

Begins as a six-legged larva chowing down,

On a white-footed mouse who happens around.


Now the larva does not infect the mouse,

With the spirochete because that microbious louse,

Already inhabits the mouse in expectation

Of a ticket on a tick to a new destination.


The tick larva and its new pal, the microbe,

Settle in for the winter with the mouse in tow.

In the spring there's a new life for the tick,

It becomes an eight-legged nymph - that's quite a trick.


This tiny nymph and the tinier spirochete,

Are now feeling frisky and ready for a treat --

A journey on a raccoon or a skunk or a bird,

Or a squirrel or a person - or so I've heard.


But, you know, they say, there's no place like home,

And back to the white-footed mouse this nymph doth roam,

Until the end of the summer when the nymph becomes a tick,

And decides that a deer is the critter to pick.


The tick tries to find a mate still accompanied by its little friend,

The spirochete, who has probably been driven round the bend,

By all those tickiferous transformations,

And travels to various animal nations.


Now and then that microbe-laden tick,

Lacking a deer with whom to click,

Ends up on one of us instead,

And gives us a disease all of us dread.


It turned up first in the Connecticut town of Lyme,

Inflicting two then twelve kids, or so I'm

Told be folks who studied the mysteries,

Of what they called Lyme disease.


This disease brings fever and aching joints,

It's a nasty customer on many points.

When you get it you wish you'd avoided the woods,

And stayed in more urban neighborhoods.


The wise folks at Yale tried to figure it out,

(Had they been at Harvard they'd have triumphed, no doubt.*)

Still the Yalies went ahead and did their best,

But finally the solution came from way out West.


It seems that Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

Left the land of the wolves and the beaver

And traveled to suburban Long Island in 1981 --

For the folks at CDC the excitement had just begun.


As you know, the Centers for Disease Control,

Are dedicated to keeping you and me whole.

They gathered up ticks from overcrowded Long Island

And shipped them out West to friendly Big Sky Land.


At the Public Health Service lab in Montana,

In the land of the cowboys and the bandana,

A man named Dr. Willy Burgdorfer,

Sliced open the ticks to see what they could offer.


There in the ticks as might be expected,

Were nasty spirochete. Although they had no doubt neglected,

Deadly six-shooters or Sharp's rifles,

They brought along RMSF - and that's no trifle.


Then Burgdorfer looked further and what did he see:

But hitherto unknown member of the Borrelia family -

This dude was a slender spirochete related to the syphilis germ -

Burgdorfer was a tough man if he didn't squirm.


But he soldiered on with these cultured microbes -

He injected them into rabbits with needliferous probes.

For the rabbits this was a bummer as they got Lyme's Disease,

But they suffered so that you and I can live as we please.


We can walk in the woods with a better understanding,

Of the danger of ticks who are convicted of handing

A nasty microbe to us with soar throat and fever,

And fatigue, swollen muscles, and nausea - I'm a believer!


We now know to be careful of ticks when we go outdoors.

To Dr. Burgdorfer they said, "The honor is yours,

You discovered the culprit, so lets make merry,

We'll drink champagne and call the germ Borrelia burgdorferi."

Bill Youngs


* This remark, apparently gratituitous, derives from the fact that your LASC 400: Epidemics instructors are both graduates of Harvard!