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Should you diagnose a stranger?


Let us say that you meet a person who has visible symptoms of a curable disease that you can easily recognize. Should you say something about it? I am not talking about something like a birth defect or Down's syndrome that really cannot be treated, but an ordinary infectious disease like warts or a fungus infection. You may be able to help the person get treatment by being open and frank, but you run the risk of becoming a meddler whose intentions are misinterpreted.

Bearers of bad news are seldom appreciated. I remember reading a story many years ago about a doctor who was shot in a hospital emergency room when he told a woman that she was pregnant. It was not the doctor's fault that the woman was pregnant. He just said something that the woman intensely disliked and she directed her rage toward the innocent doctor. Generally, it is a bad idea to give bad news or meddle in other people's affairs.

Yesterday, at a restaurant, I saw a waiter with a bad case of Tinea Capitis. His hair was completely shaved, probably in an attempt to minimize an unsightly appearance. However, his scalp had patches of red and irritated skin typical of a Tinea fungal infection. I knew that with proper treatment his skin would be normal in a few weeks, but I kept quiet. It was not my business. This incident reminded me of a conference that I attended many years ago. I happened to sit behind a woman wearing a dress with an open back. The skin in her back had larva migrans tracks from hookworms. Obviously, she had bathed in contaminated water or lain on a contaminated beach. I did not say anything then either.

I feel somewhat guilty for not actively going out of my way to help these people. However, I provide information so that those who seek it will find it.
Learn more about infectious diseases

© Copyright  - Antonio Zamora