According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the incidences of chicken pox (a.k.a the varicella virus) are down by nearly 80 percent from 2000-2010. The decline is thought to be thanks to the widespread use of the chicken pox vaccine, which previously was only given in a single dose, but in 2006 new guidelines recommended a second shot and rates plummeted even further!
And yet I remain entirely (and possibly entirely irrationally) freaked out about getting chicken pox, or its later-in-life variant, shingles, which can be notoriously painful and dangerous at later ages. (I remember back in 2003 when David Letterman had shingles, and was away from his night show for a full 30 days! The only other time he called in sick was after heart bypass! He REALLY hated the illness, as evidenced by his “Top 10″ list upon his return, March 31.)
Yes, I had chicken pox as a kid, but my case was SO mild as to be of dubious existence. I think there may have been one half-hearted freckle-like splotch on my face, which the doctor at the time assumed was my sole indicator of the disease. (Another sign: It came shortly after my brother had a more fully-blown cases.) But I’ve actually heard that if you had such a slight case there is the chance that your body didn’t actually create adequate antibodies to protect you in the future, and that you could be one of the unlucky few who simply gets poxed again.
Still, I have not received the vaccine, mostly because when I recount my history over the years to doctors, they assure me I’m in the clear—and despite my continued low-level worry about it, who am I to contradict their hard-earned medical wisdom?
But you’d better believe that at my next physical I am FINALLY going to remember to ask that they check (and double-check) my blood for evidence of chicken pox antibodies (called “titers”)—and should those soldiers be entirely lacking or just too puny, I just may line up for the shots!