I Had Shingles Twice–in College AND While Pregnant

Shingles is what you get when the chickenpox virus flares back up in your body again. When you get better from chicken pox the virus goes to sleep (dormant) in your nerve roots. For lots of people the virus stays dormant forever, but in times of weakened immune system (from stress/injury/certain medicines/other reasons) the chicken pox virus comes back out and causes shingles (not chicken pox). You can catch the chickenpox but you cannot catch the shingles.

Meredith with her two children having a great time at the beach! Everyone is happy and healthy!

Shingles is a painful skin rash that usually appears in a strip, band, or small area on once side of the face/body. Symptoms include headache, light sensitivity, flu-like feeling (no fever), itching/tingling/pain in infected area, and rash that turns to fluid-filled blisters that crust over. Some people feel dizzy or weak. And some people may have vision changes or loss of vision due to rash around the eye or other more extreme complications.

This was once thought of as something you get when you’re getting up there in age–say, pushing 70–but really, people of a much younger age are coming down with scary cases of shingles. I believe this is because we live much faster-paced, high-stress lives than people once did.

College is a time of high-stress for many people. When you go off to college you’re on your own for often the first time, you’re eating poorly (or I was), staying up too late…I could go on, but you get it.

Meridith was one such unlucky college gal that got shingles–twice. While it’s not very common to have shingles twice (extremely uncommon to have shingles more than twice), some people do get it more than once.

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HPV Vaccine – Gardasil, Cervarix

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a nasty virus. Actually, it’s a group of 150+ different related viruses (called types or strains). 
Papilloma means wart. HPV can cause warts to appear in bumps–raised or flat, small or large–and sometimes in formations that can look cauliflower-like. These warts love to hang out in mucous-membrany areas such as the mouth, throat, genitals, and anus, but it’s not at all uncommon to find them on your hands (common warts) and feet (plantar warts), as well. In fact, sixty of the 150+ types cause hand and foot warts.
My guess is you’ve had one. Am I right? I have. In fact, I get them on the soles of my feet all the time.
HPV is so common that nearly all men and women get one type at some point in their lives. Don’t freak out.
So how do you get it?
You get warts through other people who have warts—skin-to-skin contact. Most often the spread comes from intimate contact. And in many cases, the infected person doesn’t even know they have it because they show no signs or symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms don’t develop until years after being infected.
So, why is it important for me to talk about warts?

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The Vaccine Handbook App from IAC

WOW! I just discovered this new app from the Immunization Action Coalition. It’s called “The Vaccine Handbook“. It gives you all the latest journal articles straight to your device as well a vaccine handbook, questions and answers, and the vaccine schedule tables. I am so excited to be able to have access to all of this wonderful information! It’s definitely heavy on the science side but I highly recommend this to researchers and physicians!


Cryptosporidium: Is it safe to swim?

Somewhere between getting my daughter in her clothing and pouring cereal for my son this morning I heard the word “cryptosporidium” come out of the news anchor’s mouth. It made me stop and tune in.

I took a parasitology class in grad school and I loved every minute of it because parasites are SO interesting. Cryptosporidium (crypto) is a parasite that can wreak havoc on your digestive system for weeks, and apparently outbreaks are on the rise in swimming pools across the country.

Crypto is a parasite that can survive in damp environments for 2-6 months before it needs to find a host to live in. It can be ingested by and then live in any mammal and cause mild to severe (even fatal) watery diarrhea–the disease cryptosporidiosis. Crypto’s lifecycle completes when the animal passes it in its feces so it can infect the next host.

Okay, pause. Back when I took this class the professor termed crytpo the “camping disease” because those infected had often bathed in or drank infected water in the wilderness. The professor made it a point to blame the raccoons. I remember that well. But, it’s not shocking to hear about crypto in the news this swimming season, because it’s really more common than we realize. Continue reading

Antibiotic Resistance


Antibiotics have been around since the 1920’s and play a huge role in the treatment of bacterial infections. But when used incorrectly, antibiotics can do more harm than good.

Treating infections is becoming increasingly more difficult. The overuse and misuse of antibiotics can cause antibiotic resistance, which happens when the bacteria changes to survive antibiotics.

This can promote the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria–superbugs. Continue reading