“I’m sorry” said the inn keeper, “we have no room at the inn but there is a manger in the stable, if that would do”.
“Gosh!” exclaimed the man, who just so happened to be a slightly paranoid Microbiologist, “I wonder if a stable is compliant with the latest Health Building Notes and Technical Memoranda?”
“We’ll take it” said the Microbiologist’s wife.
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed. They settled into the stable, moving some straw into a corner for a bed and prepared the manger for the imminent delivery. The straw was pretty old and the Microbiologist did his best to avoid inhaling any fungal spores which might lead to allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis. He shook out the straw to get rid of any ticks which might give them Lyme disease and he moved the donkey into a nearby empty stall muttering “that will prevent the donkey giving us Glanders”.
When the midwife arrived, the Microbiologist ensured she used the appropriate hand hygiene facilities, albeit just a trough outside of the stable, which he had already checked for mosquito larvae that might pose a risk of malaria transmission. Eventually the Microbiologist allowed the midwife into the stable.
Hark! The herald angels sing and the baby boy was born. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in the manger.
As the angel’s singing faded away they could hear that the cattle were lowing in a shed nearby. “I hope they don’t try and put them in here” said the Microbiologist, “they might have Anthrax!”
His wife gave him an intolerant look. “You Microbiologist’s are all the same” she said. “You’re paranoid about every possible infection you might get”. The Microbiologist replied “Just make sure you wash your hands before you touch the baby.”
Their words were cut short by a commotion outside, and a small mouse came running through the stable door, pursued by a cat, which was chased by a dog. “Oh my goodness!” exclaimed the Microbiologist. “Quick, protect the baby. They might give him a hantavirus, Toxoplasmosis or even Hydatid disease…”
Just as he managed to get rid of the mouse, cat and dog, a goat and a sheep wandered in to see the baby asleep in heavenly peace...
“Not you as well” said the frustrated Microbiologist. “I can’t give the baby Doxycycline for Brucella or Q Fever as he’s only a child and it’s contra-indicated. Out you go!”
Yet another disaster averted, the Microbiologist and his wife settled down to rest as the baby slept peacefully in the manger.
Whilst shepherds watched their flocks by night, a few wandered in looking for their lost sheep and stopped and rejoiced at the birth of the child. They offered to share their supper, “would you like anything to eat” they asked the Microbiologist’s wife. “We have pork sausages or chicken pie.”
“I wouldn’t go for the pork because of the risk of tapeworm,” muttered the Microbiologist, “and if they don’t cook that chicken properly then there’s a risk of Campylobacter. Maybe just have some toast” he advised his wife.
His wife gave him a flat stare, her patience starting to wear thin. “I’m hungry. Just get me something to eat or next time you can have the blooming baby!”
Shortly afterwards, the Microbiologist heard a quiet knock at the door, and the inn keeper put his head inside.
“Three kings of Orient are at the door, claiming to have followed a star to get here. They are bearing gifts and have traversed afar.”
“Put them in another stable for the moment and get a better travel history. In particular have they been to West Africa in the last three weeks?” said the Microbiologist, “and if there is any risk of Viral Haemorrhagic Fever make sure they are kept isolated and use appropriate personal protective equipment...Oh and if they have camels don’t forget to test for MERS-CoV!”
“Hmm...I wonder if there are rats in here?” mused the Microbiologist...a little too loudly.
“That’s it!” cried the Microbiologist’s wife, waking from a nice dream about mince pies and fruit cake. “I’ve had enough. There is no plague here. The bats in the rafters are not going to give him rabies and the geckos on the walls are not going to give him Salmonellosis. Stop being so paranoid!”
“But my dear it’s Christmas Day” said the Microbiologist in hurt tones...“What if this is the son of God!”
That was too much for the Microbiologist’s wife. “Do you know the difference between God and a doctor?” she asked. “No...well...God doesn’t think he’s a doctor! Now go to sleep!”
And with that a silent night fell and all that could be heard were the bells that were ringing in the distance as Christmas Morning dawned across the land…