April 27, 2020

Shingles, or another virus demanding attention

While we are focusing so much attention on the coronavirus, we mustn’t lose focus on our other healthcare needs.

The need for my wife and me this week was our second shingles vaccine. That very nasty shingles attack is caused by the chickenpox virus (varicella zoster, a type of herpes virus different from the cold sore or genital type) that lives dormantly in our nerve roots, just waiting for who knows what conditions to break out along that nerve’s distribution and cause awful pain, blisters, loss of nerve function with facial paralysis (if it happens along the facial nerve), and possible post eruption pain (post herpetic neuralgia). That means when the virus attack resides and the blisters heal, you’re left with terrible pain along the area affected. It’s an anti gift that keeps on giving. Like that unwanted relative who is always coming for dinner or your neighbor who attacks his landscaping with any loud engine based device at any time (esp Sat and/or Sun at AM, or wine on the back porch time near dusk). But much worse, not just uncomfortable, I mean excruciating pain.

But, like with most viruses, there is a vaccine!!!! Several years ago (2006) a vaccine was developed that unfortunately was only about 50% effective. So another has been developed (2017) that is a 2-time shot, separated by 2 to 6 months, but 90% effective. Age 50 is the start date for this vaccine.

I like those numbers much better.

The problem is this: those 2 shots kick your butt, with about 36 hours of feeling lousy, really lousy, headache, muscle pain, sore arm at the injection site, and ready to do nothing but stay in bed and take some Motrin. With the first shot, I was uninformed (even as a doc) and had a full day the next day. I made it through, but it wasn’t easy. So this time we planned a Friday evening shot, picked up comfort food from a local restaurant, and went home to chill. 36 hours later we are resurfacing to the living world.

Shingles stinks. The shingles vaccine stinks. But shingle stinks a whole lot more. Just be prepared to weather the prevention. Try a good book, it was Hamilton for me.