The World at Large

Moving to the US

Friday, October 06, 2006



I was once told that when my children first entered daycare that I would catch more viruses than at any other time in my life. It turns out that advice was wrong.

Last year Luc was at daycare for 3 days a week. During that time he did indeed bring home many different viruses, several of which Anne and I caught. However, it doesn't compare to this year.

Many of the viruses children get will not affect adults. This is because we caught them ourselves as a child, and we now have an immunity. Even when a virus evolves a little, there is sufficient immunity that we rarely get more than a sniffle and a headache.

These viruses have difficulty moving from one continent to another. This does not mean that they can't migrate (they do), but the incidence is reduced. Young children rarely make intercontinental trips (having taken two children from Australia to America I know why - and Nic and Luc were both very well behaved). On those occasions when they do make the trip, the odds of having one of these viruses at that time is reasonably low. The virus also has difficulty being spread by adults who make the trip, since most of them have had it at some point in their lives. Since viruses mutate rapidly, the low incidence of migration means that some of the most common childhood viruses can differ significantly between continents.

This is particularly apparent with the latest virus to hit our household. This one is called "Hand, foot and mouth disease" (despite the name, it is completely unrelated to the "Foot and mouth disease" suffered by livestock). This is one of those diseases you're only supposed to get once, and practically everyone gets it as a child. In fact, this was one of the many bugs that Luc caught last year. So theoretically the only person in the family who could catch it is Nic. Unfortunately, this theory is wrong.

Despite having a full blown case of the Australian version of hand, foot and mouth last year, Luc was the first to come down with it here. In Australia he got a few of the characteristic spots on his hands, a bit of a temperature, and a runny nose. He shared these symptoms with most of the kids in his daycare group. Anne and I were completely unaffected. This time around, Luc has spots on his feet, his rear end, and inside his mouth. The ones in his mouth have ulcerated, meaning that most foods hurt for him to eat. Nasty.

A nurse did tell us that we shouldn't have to worry about catching this virus, but that it is certainly possible if we'd never had it before. Well it looks like having it in Australia doesn't count. Rather than being immune, Anne and I have both been affected, though I think it hit Anne harder (the spots are certainly more evident). Fortunately the children's doctor told us that the current strain of the bug does not lead to a high fever, so we have all been spared that.

Of course, it should go without saying that Nic caught the virus too. He was probably the last to come down with it. The timing was pretty bad for him, as he is right in the middle of teething on a couple of molars. The poor little guy seems pretty miserable. We're lucky he's so happy and cries so rarely!


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