(Reuters/Brian Snyder)

Article initially published in The Nation on March 4, 2015 and written by Annie Sparrow

No cough, no measles. that was one of the many mantras and memory aids I learned in medical school. Most were designed to reduce tomes like Gray’s Anatomy to a few rules. Much of the time, it was easy to miss the point, especially when the subject seemed to be an obscure disease.

Five years into a typical Western medical education, none of us had ever seen measles. Nor were we bothered. Apart from HIV, microbes like measles seemed prehistoric. Still, I remembered this particular rule, offered by a revered professor, even as I wondered why he was so focused on a cough instead of “Koplik spots,” the little white dots in the mouth that are specific to measles.

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