I have shingles–the disease, not the roofing supplies. This week I’ve been troubled by some pain on one side of my torso, accompanying some ugly-looking blisters. I feared that a random scrape had introduced festering bacteria under my skin. I worried that it would spread, which seemed likely when blisters appeared on my front as well as my back.
I’ve been very busy with a short-term technical writing contract, so I didn’t absent myself from the office until Friday night, when I went to my local walk-in clinic. Too many people had the same idea: there was a wait of over two hours, so I went home and returned in the morning.
This morning I finally saw a doctor. He was reassuring, up to a point: I don’t have a nasty, antibiotic-resistant Staphlococcus aureus infection. I have the chickenpox virus, varicella-zoster virus. It follows the path of a single sensory nerve in the body, infecting one dermatome. It won’t spread to other parts of my body. It won’t kill me. However, more than three days have passed since the symptoms started, so it’s too late for anti-viral medicines. I’ll just have to live with it for the next month. After that, the pain will probably go away. (It lingers in some people.)
He said the outbreak was probably caused by stress. Oh, yes, I said, I’m working for the Ontario goverment. And my father died a few weeks ago. “Bingo,” said the doctor.
I might never have another outbreak; but anyone who has had chickenpox or been vaccinated against chickenpox is at risk of getting shingles. The doctor offered me a stronger painkiller, but so far Ibuprofen(TM) has been sufficient. And I’ll stay away from any little children who haven’t had chickenpox yet.
So the good news is that it will go away by itself. The bad news is, it will take its own sweet time doing so.