The “Cooties” Epidemic

“Cooties” Epidemic

Disclaimer: Iggy’s stuttering of “cooties” and mispronunciation of “Port-au- Prince” as well as her glaringly racist comments were all intentional and are intended to satirize the ignorance of developed countries (in this case, the U.S.) on developing countries (Haiti).

Iggy: Welcome to the June 21st episode of Discussion Table. I am Iggy Norance, your loving host. On this fine first day of summer, we will chat about the recent, erm, “cooties” disease in children that has been worrying many parents. Oh, children these days. My generation was not so problematic. We were well-behaved, obedient darlings, unlike these little critters.

*phone interrupts*

Noni: Hello Iggy, this is Noni DeGraff reporting live from Haiti.

Iggy: Oh, hi Noni. Oh, yes, we have a correspondent from “Port-au- Prince,” Haiti, where the first case of cooties was reported last week.

Noni: Yes, the whole city of Port-au- Prince is in a state of confusion. Microbiologists and pathologists are still researching this “cooties” pathogen for identification. There seems to be no biological explanation. Peculiarly, only children of elementary school age seem to be affected by the disease.

Iggy: What are the symptoms?
Noni: The symptoms are very curious. The affected children seem to merge into one identity; every child infected with “cooties” desires the same toys, clothing, and even food.

Iggy: I mean, Noni, it’s Haiti.

Noni: Um, what do you mean by that?

Iggy: There is only so many options for those items in Haiti. It’s Haiti. People are barely scraping by to feed themselves.

Noni: Okay, Iggy Norance. Here is an account from a father of two children recently affected by cooties:

Haitian Father: J’ai une fille de huit ans et un fils de six ans. Ma fille aimait porter des vêtements roses et jouant avec des poupées. Mon fils, il aimait des, comment dire, “HotWheels” et déteste manger des légumes. Mais maintenant, des jupes sont interdites, et les deux ne jouent que des cubes composants. La salade est une partie d’un chaque repas– ach je ne comprends rien!

Translator: “I have an eight-year old girl and a six-year old boy. My daughter used to like wearing pink and playing with her dolls. My son has also enjoyed Hot Wheels and hated vegetables. But now, skirts are forbidden, both of them only play with colorful building blocks, and salad is a part of every meal. I just don’t understand.

Iggy: Hmm, I suppose that is rather strange. How is cooties diagnosed?

Noni: There is no formal diagnosis based on biological symptoms. We can only speculate based on behavioral changes right now.

Iggy: Psh, then why the concern? Children are so fickle. They always change!

Noni: Yes, Iggy, but cooties is different. The children want to be exactly like one another.

Iggy: How is the cooties pathogen spread?

Noni: It appears to spread with simple physical contact amongst children who seem to want to get touched by cootified classmates. Children are wanting cooties. Adults are immune.

Iggy: So Noni, you’re saying children want to all become the same?

Noni: It seems so. Developmental psychologists working with the World Health Organization are proposing that children are susceptible to this disease because they are still maturing and finding their individual identities. Adults, on the other hand, have already passed this, let’s say, development phase.

Iggy: Why is it that the children want such specific items? Colorful building blocks, no skirts, and vegetables? Seems like an odd combination.

Noni: Researchers have found the “Patient Zero” as a sixth-grader named Darren Walsh. It is unclear how he acquired cooties himself, but he plays with colorful building blocks, wears pants only, and apparently loves his greens.

Iggy: Wow, so the cootified kids are all becoming like Darren? What was so special about him?

Noni: Well, he was the first one with the disease so he was able to spread it throughout his elementary school simply by touch. As a sixth-grader, Darren was the oldest in the school, and younger kids admired him.

Iggy: What has happened to Darren since?

Noni: Because cooties does not show biological manifestations, Darren cannot be quarantined. Further, its easy method of transmission has allowed cooties to spread to an estimated two thousand children in Haiti already.

Iggy: Noni, aren’t we lucky that cooties is in Haiti, not at home in the United States? My children won’t have to worry.

Noni: Well, Iggy, cooties has already reached Florida. Haiti isn’t as far from the U.S. as you think it is.

Iggy: What?! Oh no, what do I do! Oh my goodness! I can’t have my kids becoming like a Haitian boy! My precious baby girl loves her stuffed animal. I need to go home right now! My kids will not be allowed to leave the house until cooties is eradicated!

*Iggy runs out*

Ig? Ig Norance? *silence* I apologize on the behalf of my colleague and for Discussion Table. Iggy seems to have left her studio. We will be back tomorrow at the same time.

Jaeyoon Cha (’21) from Dallas, Texas is a pre-med student and a prospective chemistry major. She is interested in the socioeconomic implications of the word “contagion” and examining it beyond a simple biological phenomenon. Her childhood experiences growing up in South Korea inspired the creation of this podcast.

Image Credit: Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash

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