Take it from me. Shingles sucks.

When I was a little kid (about 8 or 9) I got the chickenpox really bad. Besides the rash I had a digestive system that refused to function and I pretty much lost all muscle control in my legs. In fact it was the first time I can remember thinking that it was possible that I could die. Not that I was going to of course, but it was the first time I ever thought about my mortality. Anyway it sucked, so I can understand why people are making sure their kids are getting the chickenpox vaccination that's now available. I was into it too, until I read this article in the NY Times.

Apparently researchers are worried that by immunizing children to chickenpox, we are increasing the risk of adults contracting shingles. Shingles is basically a reactivation of the chickenpox virus that lies dormant in adults who got chickenpox as children (which is most of us). Adult exposure to children with chickenpox boosts the immunity to the virus that we already have in our bodies, and helps to prevent us from coming down with shingles. But if kids aren't getting chickenpox anymore, adults aren't exposed and therefore might be more likely to come down with shingles.

Big deal you say? It's better to keep a child healthy? I know what you mean, but besides having one of the worse names for a condition ever ("shingles" just sounds nasty), let me tell you from personal experience shingles sucks too. I got a somewhat mild case of it about a year ago (luckily in a pretty discreet place - my lower back) and it hurts. At it's worse it burned like hell, and anything touching it - even my shirt - just irritated it more. It went away eventually, but my doctor told me that in extreme cases a person can develop nerve damage (post herpetic neuralgia) that can last forever. I was confident that wouldn't happen to me, but there was always that worry that it might not go away - which was pretty frightening.

So I'm not sure where I stand on this, or even if there's any point to an opinion. Even a researcher in the article says that it's just a hypothesis now and needs to be looked at more closely. Maybe I'll just get Madame the vaccine but invite any neighborhood kids with chickenpox over instead for a "Let's Boost Dad's Immunity!" party.

Chickenpox Vaccine Cuts Deaths but Raises Questions on Shingles
[NY Times]