The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

July 12, 2012

Mike Pound: Some people make their own bad luck

At the risk of bringing a plague of locusts down on my head, I have to say that I’m not much of a superstitious person. The fact that today is Friday the 13th doesn’t fill me with dread. I figure if something goes wrong today it will likely be my fault and not because the last day of the work week happens to fall on the 13th day of the month.

I know that some people do fear Friday the 13th, but a lot of times those people tend to fear just about anything. Some people remind me of Churchy from the great comic strip “Pogo,” who panicked when he discovered that “Friday the 13th is on Wednesday this month.”

Nope, I tend to think that you make your own luck, and in some cases, your own bad luck.

There was a story Thursday in The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that made me think of people making their own bad luck. According to the story, nine people in recent years have been treated in St. Louis hospitals for a rare lung parasite. The parasite, which causes a rare disease called paragonimiasis, was described in a recent study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I suppose you could say coming down with a rare disease such as paragonimiasis would be an example of bad luck. And, I guess it would, but for the fact the people contracted paragonimiasis by eating raw crawfish while floating and camping near Missouri streams and rivers. If you have ever spent any time at all in our area waterways you probably have seen crayfish, which are also called crawdads. They look like miniature lobsters and hang around river banks.

According to the study, seven of the nine people who ate raw crayfish had been — drum roll please — drinking alcohol.

Dr. Gary Weil, an infectious disease specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis and one of the authors of the study, summed up what happen when he told the Post-Dispatch that, “There’s Mardi Gras behavior sometimes on the rivers.”

Many years ago my Uncle Jim and I made the mistake of trying to canoe on the Niangua River on a Saturday. Ever since that day we have opted to float during the middle of the week. I don’t want to say that people tend to get a little crazy on the river. I want to say that they get unbelievably crazy on the river.

The best way to describe what eventually happens to folks who eat a raw crayfish carrying the parasite that causes paragonimiasis is to refer you to the movie “Alien.” The Post-Dispatch described in detail how the crayfish parasite makes its way into the lungs of people. But I’m thinking some of you might be eating breakfast while you are reading this so I’ll let you sort of picture the process yourself.

The good news is that the symptoms that accompany paragonimiasis eventually go away. The bad news is that it takes five to 10 years. The other good news is that, when properly diagnosed, paragonimiasis is fairly easy to treat. The bad news is that paragonimiasis is pretty tough to diagnose.

All of the people who ate raw crayfish and got sick eventually recovered after treatment in various St. Louis hospitals.

I bet none of them will ever eat lobster.


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