Beware the Woo: Pox Party

Was mich nicht umbringt macht mich stärker

Friedrich Nietzsche

Back at the dawn of time, before there was modern medicine, there was the flawed notion that the thing that didn’t kill you made you stronger. A broken bone healed back stronger than the original bone. Surviving a childhood disease meant that you had a better chance of surviving being exposed to the disease as an adult.

None of this is actually true. A broken bone is more brittle at the point of breakage and will tend to break again. Childhood diseases can cause adult diseases that are even worse. Adversity can hone tenacity, but adversity also hardens hearts and warps desires. One does not walk causally into fire hoping to get scars. That would be stupid.

My mother was a Christian Scientist. She didn’t believe in science or medicine in a general sense. Medicine had killed her mother as far as she was concerned, and she never forgave it for doing that. This was also not true, but there was little point in arguing with her about the facts of health, disease, and the slow acquisition of knowledge. My mother went to her death denying she had cancer and refusing treatments for the cancer that she had been diagnosed with. This is what happens when you deny science. When you deny reality.

One of my earliest childhood memories is of staying a few days at a friend’s house for a pox party when he was infected with some disease or other that caused little red pustules to appear on your skin. This had been a common practice in generations previous to mine. In the time before vaccines were available for the many kinds of infections that can kill us. Some diseases, it was decided, were better to catch as a child because the disease caught as an adult could kill you much easier.

The people back in the early 1900’s didn’t know about Shingles or the fact that it was caused by the same virus that caused Chicken Pox because they had no tools that could discover these tiny bits of life code that float freely around us and in us. Not until the creation of more powerful microscopes could they see that there were infectious agents even smaller than bacteria, and it was decades after that before they could sequence the DNA and determine which viruses did what things to people.

They just knew that sickness was all around them, and that children were stronger than adults were. Sometimes these children died from the infections they were exposed to, but those were the weak children anyway. At least, that is what the parents of the surviving children told themselves. By 1968(ish) when I was taken to the pox party that I remember, there were vaccines for most of these infectious diseases, and the children around me had been vaccinated with the early versions of the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) That vaccination is on my shot record as being given to me and it would have been required of all the other children, too. There was no vaccine for Chicken Pox until long after I was too old to get it, though.

Ever anxious to engage in whatever alternative medicine that was being practiced around her, my mother dutifully surrendered me to the quarantined house and I was exposed to whatever it was that my friend was sick with. He had a pretty bad infection, and several of the children who stayed with him also had pretty bad infections. None of them seemed to lead to any complications, but it is hard to judge the harm of an action until some time afterwards. The virus that causes Chicken Pox is one of the herpes family of virus, it stays with you all your life once you have caught it and causes Shingles in old age.

I had been exposed to some form of herpes virus when I was born. Being exposed to its cousin may or may not have done anything to my immune system, it is really hard to say. What I do know is that I never had a rash like the other children had and I always wondered why that was. Knowing what I know now, I wonder if the previous encounters with herpes had primed my immune system to ward off its cousin, or if the same immunity blindness that allowed the one to persist would also allow the other to persist?

In any case, I wasn’t interested in experiencing the slow torture that Shingles wreaks on its sufferers so I opted for the Shingrix vaccine a month or so ago. I just wanted to see what the vaccination did to my system and whether it altered the symptoms of Meniere’s or not.

Contrasting that vaccination with the COVID vaccination and my previous experiences with other vaccines, I have to say that the pain levels came close to echoing the Pneumococcal vaccine without the golf ball sized lymph nodes that made the experience so weird and hard to endure. I can’t tell yet if the vaccine will do anything positive or negative with Meniere’s symptoms but at least I probably won’t be getting Shingles anytime in the future, knock on wood. (promptly bashes self in skull)

For all you young mothers out there I just want to say, don’t take your children to pox parties. Just don’t do that. You never know what the other children are sick with; and if you think you do know and trust the doctor’s diagnosis of the disease (this is the only way to be sure) then why don’t you trust his recommendations for treatment too? Get your children vaccinated and stop this insanity please.