Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's not Hoof and Mouth

Oh, the benefits of being a public school teacher.
I think I may have been lucky my first year, not contracting weirdo illnesses everyone else gets as a child. I somehow managed to amass a large amount of sick leave; so much sick leave that I had planned to call in “sick” some day before Christmas Break, so I could go shopping guilt and child free. I even had the date picked, next Friday. Then… I caught a virus.

At first I thought I had developed a new allergy to pineapple because, when I ate a single spoonful on Sunday night, I may as well have stuck a spoonful of lye in my mouth. The burn... ouchhhh.  On Monday, my mouth was very itchy, lending support to the pineapple allergy theory. Tuesday, I woke with a blister and a general feeling that my mouth was covered in an itchy film. I thought, perhaps I had thrush because what else on Earth could it be? I made an appointment.

The Dr took one look at my mouth and told me what I had contracted. She could have said “Oh, you have the hand, foot and mouth virus” because, although that news is bad, she told me I had “herpangina.” I had no idea what herpangina was, but it sounded like two words that should not be married “herpes” and “vagina.” I left the office not knowing that herpangina was the fancy (and horrible) word for what is commonly called hand, foot and mouth disease, and it has nothing to do with herpes or vaginas. I went back to work, not realizing that I was extremely contagious. Though, I’m sure it didn't matter if I went to school contagious because, apparently, it was rampant in the area and probably already flourishing within the school.

Once home from school, I WedMDed herpangina and discovered its common name. I learned that, though I was extremely contagious, I was only really a danger to pregnant women. Apparently, I could be infectious for weeks after the symptoms disappear. Good grief. I really could not stay out of work for too long, so I just had to quarantine myself from pregnant friends until after Christmas break. 

Now, when I begin to feel this isolation is too difficult I remind myself of “Year of Wonders,” by Geraldine Brooks, a historical fiction based on the true story of the sacrifice of one community during an outbreak of the bubonic plague. I feel this is an appropriate comparison; disagree with me, and I will lick you.

This morning, my husband read an info packet on herpangina and noticed that the virus which causes this illness (having nothing to do with herpes or vaginas) is  called coxsachie. Seriously.