I underlined the relevant bits and then bookmarked the page for swimmer’s itch. The good news was the parasite could not complete its life cycle in humans so no further disease would result. The itching could be treated with an antihistamine.
I heard a knock at the door and turned to see Cameron in the doorway. He was accompanied by Muddy.
“Greetings!” Cameron waved at me. “Can I please get something for this itch, Nurse Anne? I’m afraid I won’t be able to sleep cuz I’ll be scratching all night long.”
“Certainly. We can try some diphenhydramine. It should help with the itch and it might make you sleepy too. I was just reading about your rash.” I said as I indicated the book on my desk. “Seems it should go away on its own.”
“That’s good news.” Cameron nodded as I got up to retrieve the medication from the cupboard.
“The Handbook of Communicable Diseases….” Muddy said as he picked up my book from the desk. He opened it up to the page I had bookmarked. “Schistosomiasis. That’s a mouth full.”
“Sure is.” I said as I reached for the bottle of pills and read the fine print for dosing.
“Swimmers itch? Huh. I’ve heard of that before.” Muddy said.
“Is that what I have?” Cameron asked.
“That’s my theory.” I said as I poured out a pill and put it into a paper cup.
“Huh. It says here that it’s a parasite that invades your skin.” Muddy said as he studied the book more closely.
“Thanks Muddy.” I said as I gave him a withering look. “I wasn’t going to share that bit of information.” I had planned on sparing Cameron the disturbing details.
“A parasite? That’s disgusting!” Cameron squawked and grimaced in horror as he pulled up his shirt to have a closer look. “Will I be eaten alive?”
“No! No, Cameron. It is a tiny larvae that can only mature in the skin of birds and not humans. So the larvae will die out but in the meantime it will be itchy for you.”
“Ah man! That’s so cool! Anne, do you have a magnifying glass? I wanna look at these larvae!” Muddy said with great curiosity as he looked from the book to Cameron’s chest.
“You would need a microscope to see anything and I haven’t got one handy.”
“Too bad,” Muddy said as he leaned in closer and squinted.
“What do I tell people?” Cameron looked at me with alarm.
“You don’t have to tell them anything, Cameron. It’s none of their business.”
“I have to tell them something! Some of the guys in my hut think that I have chickenpox.”
“With chickenpox you usually have a fever, you are tired and your rash would be more like blisters.”
“Oh.” Cameron responded. “I’m tired, but that’s probably just cuz of camp.” Cameron smirked.
“Have you had chickenpox before?” I asked.
“Ya. As a little kid. I don’t remember much of it though.”
“Well there you go. You can’t get chickenpox twice, so tell them it’s not chickenpox.”
“It’s not smallpox, is it?” Muddy asked as he held up the book to me opened to the page on smallpox. Cameron looked to me.
“It’s a virus that causes disgusting blisters all over your body. There are rumors that smallpox can be used as a biological weapon.”Muddy told Cameron excitedly.
“Oh gross!” Cameron responded.
“Smallpox was eradicated in the 80’s with the help of vaccines. Plus Cameron would be very symptomatic if it were smallpox.”
“What does symptomatic mean?” Cameron asked.
“You would have symptoms such as a fever, a headache, and body aches.” I explained as I gently retrieved the book from Muddy’s hand so he wouldn’t be able to research any more of his terrifying theories. “Do you have any of those?” I asked Cameron.
“No. No, thank God. Just itchy.”
“All right then. So let’s go with the swimmer’s itch theory. I will take your vital signs for now and you let me know if anything changes, OK?”
“That sounds good.” Cameron opened his mouth and I popped in the thermometer and then found his radial pulse. His vitals were all normal.
“No fever Cameron. Let’s just tell your hut-mates that you have a non-contagious dermatitis. How does that sound?” I said as I filled a paper cup with water and handed him the diphenhydramine.
“That sounds good. A ‘non-contagious derma…tilitis’, right?
“Non-contagious dermatitis.” I corrected him.”Dermatitis just means an inflammation of the skin. That is what you have, so it’s not a lie.”
“OK. Non-contagious dermatitis. Non-contagious dermatitis. Non-contagious dermatitis.” Cameron repeated. I smiled and him, nodded and patted him on the back.
“No chickenpox. No smallpox.” I said and then I turned to Muddy. “How did you know about smallpox?”
“It was all a part of my Navy Seals training, of course, Nurse Anne.”
I jotted down Cameron’s vitals into my nursing notes along with his treatment. I shivered and then roughly scratched my scalp and arms. My skin was crawling!