Have you ever experienced, or heard of, an infant falling seriously ill in unexplained circumstances and the blame placed squarely on the father?
I know most of us have at least some idea about this belief, which I want to refer to as a myth from the onset.
Simply put, so goes the myth, if a man whose wife has just delivered a baby is intimate with another woman other than her, then goes on to touch his child; it can fall terribly sick and even die as a result.
I know this is thorny. I also know that there are those who can bet anything in the world to prove that this is true. At a personal level I don’t believe that this is true. If at all it is true, then it must be as a result of black magic, which again, I, John Riaga, does not believe in. Let us then explore the facts and seek to unveil the misinformation.
Dr. Grace Kiringa, a leading paediatrician dismisses this myth. She says that a child’s sickness may be as a result of several other things, but never because the father committed adultery then touched him/her. She insists that there is no relationship between a man committing adultery and his baby suffering from serious unexplained illness usually a bout of diarrhoea.
She adds that children normally are prone to viral diarrheal disease caused by a virus named rotavirus which can be prevented by the use of the rotavirus vaccine. This vaccine however is not offered routinely in government facilities though it is available in most private health facilities around Kenya. To avoid instances of an infant falling ill frequently, she advises mothers to exclusively breastfeed.
She says, “Breast milk has protective antibodies passed on from mother to child that will greatly help protect against diarrheal diseases as well other several other diseases. In any case maintaining basic hygiene will help a great deal. Things like utensils that the baby uses must remain at their cleanest”
Another child health expert, Christopher Odero, says there is no medical basis for such claims. He says he is yet to come across a child who is sick as a result of the father committing adultery. He further explains that there are well known and documented evidence for childhood diarrheal illnesses and other illnesses majority of which have well known treatments. He however concedes that in EXTREMELY RARE instances, there may be certain organisms transmitted through contact with bodily fluids that may be transferred from the people who have been intimate to the child.
He explains, “Generally, sexual intercourse is an activity that involves a lot of interaction with bodily fluids between the two intimate body parts. These parts are naturally ‘dirty’ and carry organisms in them, some which exist as normal flora. Normal flora in some parts of the body may be disease causing in other parts. In the process certain organisms that resides within our body systems and are present in semen, vaginal secretions and on the surfaces where sexual activity is taking place may be transferred from one person to the other.”
“So if a man has been this intimate with a woman and there are organisms present in their body fluids and on the surfaces where they have been intimate, chances are high that this bacterium will be carried from the woman to him and vice versa if proper hygienic precautions are not taken. These hygienic precautions may include washing the hands and depending on the nature of sexual activity a full body wash may be preferred.” He adds.
According to Christopher, it is this kind of organisms both on the body fluids and on the surfaces that can cause a child to get severe bouts of diarrhoea that at times may even be fatal. We all know, and as confirmed earlier by Dr. Kiringa, children have a very weak immune system and such “strong germs” can easily way them down, badly.
So now you know the facts. Your new born baby cannot get sick because the father had sexual intercourse with another woman other than the mother of the baby. Instead, ensure that your baby stays as far as possible from these germs likely to be picked during the sexual intercourse. In short, if you are a man and you know you have been out there committing adultery, keep off the baby and anything that belongs to him/her. I believe the same applies to the mother though the general belief is that women who have just given birth are not known to committing adultery up and about.
The writer is a public relations practitioner and journalist.