NEWS FLASH: Today the Centers for Disease Control released a public health warning that Contraction Disease has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Dr. Feelbetter, infectious disease specialist at the Centers for Disease Control, Washington DC, has called on public health departments across the country to take immediate precautions to curb the spread of this highly contagious disease.
At today’s press conference, when asked if this only affects women, Dr. Feelbetter said, “Oh, no, not thosekind of contractions. Women who are not pregnant and don’t want to get pregnant need not worry. This disease is far more insidious. It sneaks up on anyone old enough to write a sentence and has overtaken the flu this year in the number of reported cases.”
“There is currently no vaccine for this disease,” he added, with a frown.
What is Contraction Disease?
The only known symptom of Contraction Disease is the indiscriminate placement of apostrophes where they don’t belong in a word.
I sat down with Dr. Feelbetter at CDC headquarters in Washington D.C. to ask how it all started. His colleague Dr. Germ, the CDC’s resident Contraction Disease expert, answered, “I have researched the origins of this disease and recently published an article on my findings in the AMA Journal. I traced the disease back to a bartender in Chicago who carelessly wrote up a drink special on June 16, 1991 as: ‘Margarita’s for $3 during Happy Hour, 4-6pm.’ It spread quickly after that first case, moving from that one restaurant to reader boards at 87 percent of the city’s restaurants within one week, before it began it began infecting the menus.”
Who is most vulnerable?
According to the CDC, vulnerable populations include bloggers, tweeters, Facebook users, basically anyone who writes.
“This is why we are having such a hard time controlling it,” the doctor said. “‘Anyone who writes’ is a very large target group. Of course, children under the age of eight are usually immune, but as early learning programs become the norm, we will likely see some cases in this age group as well.”
Surprisingly, however, few cases have been seen in people over the age of 60. Dr. Germ theorized that the elderly, having learned to read and write in another century, and not having been exposed to social media, have built up a resistance to the disease. A rare case turned up in a 78-year-old woman who brought her grocery list to the ER with items on it like “egg’s,” “orange’s,” and “sliced almond’s.” But when the doctor on call questioned her, she admitted that she had been reading her granddaughter’s blog.
How do we stop the spread of Contraction Disease?
The CDC advises that the public wear protective masks during waking hours. They should wash their hands with soap and hot water after handling a contraction of any kind (“to be safe, sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ through twice to be sure you get all those germs off,” Dr. Feelbetter said. And, most important, he said, “To prevent becoming infected, do not stare at a word with a misplaced contraction in it longer than two seconds at any one time, mainly because, like flea infestations on your cat, those suckers have a way of popping from page to person .”
If you get stuck and don’t know if an apostrophe goes in a word or not, community help lines have been set up with phone banks. For the location in your area, call this toll-free number: 1-800-GET-FIXED. On Facebook, it’s the hashtag, #StopContractionDisease.
“If all else fails,” Dr. Feelbetter said, “there is always the fourth grade teacher at your local elementary school. They’ll all tell you the same thing: ‘When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking.’ Oh, wait. Wrong rule. It’s:
The apostrophe is the mark that replaces a missing letter in a word.
The missing letter is a vowel, usually an “i,” “o,” or “u.” So, “it’s” is short for “it is (the “i” is missing in “is”), “can’t” is short for “can not” (the apostrophe replaces the “o” in “not”) and “let’s” is short for “let us,” (in this case, the “u” is missing from “us”).
For more information, see your family doctor—or preferably, a contraction specialist— or stop reading other people’s stuff for one year, although, Dr. Feelbetter said, “That could be hard for some people.”