Tuesday 6th June, 2006


Dr.David E Bratt MD

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Measles and football

“Doc, ah going Germany and I want a German measles shot.” “You mean you want a measles shot?”

“No, Doc, a German measles shot, ah going Germany, yuh know.” 

“No, no, is not German measles dey have in Germany, is measles dey have.”

“No, doc, is German measles, dey have. Measles in Germany is German measles, ent?”

“No, boy, it’s an outbreak of measles, red measles, not German measles, real measles.” I put on the English accent, to try and impress him with my superior knowledge. 

“Doc, de papers an all say is German measles. Is German measles what it have in Germany. Wha is de difference? Measles in Germany is German measles.”

“Is not de same ting! It have measles and it have German measles.” 

Gone back to Trini English.

“I went and checked it out on the Internet. Last month there were 1,200 cases of measles in all of Germany. Not German measles. Measles measles! Yuh want de shot or not?”

“Doc, ah taking yuh advice, oui, but ah still cah unnerstand. Why dey does call it German measles if is not measles from Joermanie?”

English-speaking countries have a habit of giving continental names to diseases they don’t like. German measles. Asian flu. The French pox or syphilis. Perhaps to point out that, isolated as they once were behind sea borders, it wasn’t their fault.

German measles has nothing to do with Germany. It comes from the Latin  germanus, meaning similar, because measles and German measles share some symptoms.

Both measles and German measles are oldtime childhood diseases that are not seen in T&T any more because of our very successful immunization programme which makes vaccination against them obligatory. No such programme exists in Germany. One-nil, T&T. 

They are quite different. Measles is highly contagious, gives you high fever for a week, bad cold, cough and conjunctivitis, a nasty all-body rash and some scary complications like pneumonia and encephalitis.

German measles or rubella, as it is better known, is not as virulent but is devastating if it occurs in pregnant women in the first three months, when the virus can invade the developing foetus and cause mental retardation, blindness, deafness and heart disease. Not something you want to bring back from the football World Cup.

Despite the media hype, I am dreading the World Cup. Most of the games will be disappointing with some displays of individual brilliance. No one is going to work so perhaps traffic will flow.

It might be nice to be in Germany for the fete before the matches. Some of our singers might get a contract or two. If people are attracted to our steelband, next year’s Carnival might see an invasion of German hippie types.

Forget about “the world now knowing where T&T is!” Those who need to know already know and what they know is that we have gas and oil. Period. 

The worst part is going to be listening to the local football commentators. Forget the green verbs and the lack of preparation. “Ah tink they win by one goal.” “Ah tink he last play against Pee-ruu.”

They know nothing of the history, culture or economics of football, far less anything about the host country, Joermanie! They talk clichés with exclamation marks in strange accents, a combination of Brooklyn-ese and pseudo high class English. “Put their best foot forward!” “Top of the line!” “Come up big!” “Get the show on the road!” 

There’s endless repetition. “So far, they going good, eh, so far.” “Right, right, right, right!”

I’m bored already.

The T&T football side, like the West Indies cricket team, is a just-enough team. Just good enough to get by. The cricket team still can’t bowl out a side, even when they have got the better batsmen out. 

Our footballers don’t seem to understand that the game begins when the referee blows his whistle and ends only when he decides it’s over.

This business of “we going to start slow, lime a bit, catch weself, look around to see who watching we” is for the Savannah. By the time you do that is two goals in your nennin.

And you cannot start to relax because half time coming and you want to change your shorts.

“Dem men and dem still coming at yuh!”

Can we not put an end to our childish ways and develop some “sticktoitness?”

Which brings me back to my patient going to Germany. It’s probably excusable that he does not understand the difference between measles and German measles.

Although that’s debatable, it makes a funny story. But I am sure there are doctors who tried to give their patients a German measles shot. That’s slackness. The same set of slackness that we will have to hear and see on the football fields of Germany.





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