Tabloid-Style Shocker:

Angelina Jolie Announces She Has a Herpes Virus

Another day, another celebrity press release revealing a chronic medical condition.  By taking control of the story, stars can both evoke sympathy and raise awareness.  Actress, director and force for good in the world, Angelia Jolie did just that in 2013, by announcing that she undergone double mastectomy to counter her high genetic risk for breast cancer.


The Youtube vid she posted in December 2014 was intended to achieve the same result.  It went viral. Literally.  Jolie announced she could not attend the premiere of her second feature film directorial effort, “Unbroken,” because of an infection.  A herpes virus infection.

Yes, you read it correctly.  You may wonder why anyone would want to make a point of admitting to such an affliction.  And why should that restrict them from the red carpet?

Turns out Jolie had been stricken with an adult case of chickenpox (varicella).  In ancient times (before the mid 1990’s) this was a common childhood ailment.  Kids would get low grade fevers and outbreaks of small very itchy water blisters that could scar. 

Rarely, childhood chickenpox is featured in flicks. Don’t remember “Home Alone 3?”  The one without Mcaulay Culkin? Then you missed an early scene where the kid gets tons of little red dots and has to stay home from school.  The makeup artist must have also played hooky from Facepaint Academy because these spots look nothing like the condition’s characteristic small blisters. 
This tot from “Story of Us” (1999) has a much more realistic depiction of the pesky blemishes, romantically described as “dewdrops on a rose petal” by particularly poetic physicians.

The varicella virus then clears from the skin and lies dormant in the nerves before making an unwanted comeback years later in the form of the painful band-like rash of shingles (Zoster).

Because the same virus causes both diseases, it is called the Varicella-Zoster virus or given the B-Boy acronym VZV. As in, “Yo, yo, VZV in the house!” A safe vaccine now prevents the childhood rash and a second vaccine for the 50 and over crowd limits the chance and severity of shingles.

If a grown-up was never exposed to chickenpox and were not vaccinated, the adult version of varicella can be much more aggressive, possibly affecting the lungs and brain (encephalitis).  Strong antiviral pills or possibly medicines given by vein can stop the virus like North Korean hackers can stop a movie premiere.


So why the confusion about Jolie’s announcement?  VZV is one of 9 viruses in a group known as the herpes virus family.  Only the first two kissing cousins, HSV-1 and HSV-2 cause the condition called herpes, featuring cold sores, fever blisters and genital blistering.  The remaining seven lead to chickenpox/shingles, some other childhood rashes and HHV-8 which leads to Kaposi's Sarcoma as seen in AIDS.

Confused?  You are not alone.  A consultation with Dr. Google can make patients mistakenly think they have herpes when really they are coping with one of the other seven infections.

Is it time to change the name of the Herpes Virus family?  There are some family names that have lost their popularity.  Anybody want to join the Hitler clan?  Marrying into the Manson family?  Care to change your surname to Bin Laden?  Thought not.

Angelina Jolie was not announcing she had herpes, yet technically chickenpox is a herpes virus (family) infection.  Until this terminology is altered, confusion will remain.  With anti-viral treatment, rest and support, Jolie’s career should remain “Unbroken.”

Runner up:  Tabloid-Style Shocker:

Meryl Streep has wrinkles!

Streep, now 65 years-old, has remained remarkably wrinkle-free.  Yet in this recent image, it looks like she qualifies for a Botox touch-up.  What’s that?  She’s just made up as the Witch from “Into the Woods?”  Mamma mia, she’s good!

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