positive is positive?

Yesterday I went in for a routine physical. Part of the reason for the physical was for me to check if I needed any immunizations for an upcoming trip. The other main reason was to ask for blood lab work to be done. I was curious about my cholesterol levels, especially since I haven’t done much cardio for a couple of months. I guess I’m kind of a hypochondriac. Actually I take that back. I’m actually a massive hypochondriac.

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Today I started receiving the results from my tests, so I’ve been checking the website as the test results come in. The third test result I received was this: VARICELLA ZOSTER VIRUS, POSITIVE. So of course the hypochondriac in me kicks in and I convince myself that I have a life threatening illness. First order of business, click the link above that says “About this test.”

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Clicking the link does not ease my worries one bit. It lumps all the viral tests together, including HIV, which I know I definitely don’t want to be tested positive for. The third sentence is particularly worrying: “Viruses cause disease by destroying or damaging the cells they infect, damaging the body’s immune system, changing the genetic material (DNA) of the cells they infect, or causing inflammation that can damage an organ.” So now I’m convinced that I must be dying. Since the website doesn’t have much information on my particular viral outbreak I turn to trusty Google for more information.

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So it turns out that a positive Varicella Zoster virus test result means that I’ve had the chicken pox before. It means that I should be immune to a future outbreak of chicken pox. Reading that on a random website was a huge relief, but it’s information that probably should be on the test results page. Or at the very least it should indicate that testing positive in this case is something positive (i.e. constructive or good) unlike the case of HIV where testing positive would be unequivocally bad.

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