What do you think of when someone says virus?  Most people would say infection, getting sick, germs, and other negative associations.  Not only are viruses a valuable tool in research, they offer a look into history and also our own bodies.  I’ve recently become a bit obsessed with learning more about them.  Part of it is that I thought I knew more than I did.  There is a huge amout of information just waiting to be uncovered.  Too often we think we know something and it prevents us from learnng more.  Even something simple like having the chicken pox…

I remember having the chicken pox when I was in sixth grade.  Since I was the first person in my school to get it at the time I remember being amazed every time I heard someone else came down with it because I knew it had come from me.  Where had I picked it up though?  The whole idea of this virus traveling from one person to the next fascinated me.  At the time I just assumed the viruses inside me had been destroyed by my immune system.

I grew up and learned more about viruses but never really studied them.  I am only recently starting to delve into their amazing history and mechanisms for survival.  Until recently I did not understand what the relationship was between chicken pox and shingles.  I was mistaken to think the virus that infected me years ago was eradicated from my system, this is a virus that lays dormant even after you have had the symptoms associated with the infection.

The virus that causes chicken pox, varicella-zoster virus (VZV), remains inactive in nerve cells and can reactivate later in life.  This second infection is referred to as shingles and can be quite serious.  Symptoms of shingles pain throughout the body, numbness, tingling, aches, and a blistering rash.  The discomfort may last for several weeks or even in severe cases, years.

Although we have all been affected by viruses and many of us are fearful of them, so much about them remains a complete mystery to the general population.   I am eager to find out more.  What do you want to learn about them?