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Dec 6, 2019

"Ow!" I said to myself, as the pharmacist put the needle in my upper arm. I hadn't expected the vaccination to hurt. It wasn't a regular one, you know, like the flu. This was the shingles shot. In order to avoid the shingles, you must have a series of two, a few months apart. I'm so relieved that I have had my second injection, so I don't have to be concerned about getting the virus. Well, when I say 'I don't have to be concerned about getting the virus' I don't exactly mean that. Let me explain. I already have the virus. I had an illness when I was little, called chicken pox. It is very common, and normally not serious. Your symptoms are usually: a fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, headache, and an unusual rash. The rash that can end up covering all of your body, even your eyelids, is a blister rash. A blister is a thin lump of skin that is filled with fluid. Sometimes we get blisters after walking with either new shoes, or badly fitting shoes. The blisters from the chicken pox itch, and it is a challenge to not scratch them. If you do, the blisters burst, and can scar the skin. Most people my age had chicken pox when they were children. It is the varicella-zoster virus. After you have recovered, the virus actually stays in your body, and lies dormant in a nerve of its choice. Later, as we age, if we go through stress, or our immune system gets low, the virus can re-emerge as the herpes-zoster virus which causes shingles. It's like a baby monster has hibernated, and then emerges as a big monster. 

After the shingles shot, my arm actually hurt for about four days. I couldn't believe it. The flu shot which I get each year doesn't bother me at all. I have to get the flu shot each year for my job, as a medical interpreter, otherwise I wouldn't be allowed to work around patients. However, I would choose to have it anyway, even if I didn't work. I hate being ill! It seems to be such a waste of time. And, as you might know, the flu can make you so miserable. Fever, headache, chills, a cough, a runny nose, night sweats, nausea, fatigue, and body aches are the typical symptoms. And those are just for healthy people. Babies, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems can suffer far worse, and end up in the hospital, or even die. That is why it is so important to protect yourself. If you don't get ill with the flu, you won't spread it to weaker people by coughing and sneezing, or touching them with the virus on your hands. It is spread by people coughing or sneezing, and droplets of fluid containing the virus fly through the air and are breathed in by someone else. Disgusting huh? Well, that's how many viruses are spread. The saying "cover your cough" is a helpful instruction to prevent the spread of viruses. The best prevention, though painful for a little while, is to get the flu vaccine, to protect yourself and the community you live in.