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‘That happens to everyone during the first year here’

‘That happens to everyone during the first year here’

I think I’ve caught more illnesses in the past five months that I’ve been here than I accumulated during the previous past two years in total.

And for those of you who have spoken to me for more than five minutes, you know that the idea of catching viruses, bacteria or anything of the sort is nothing less than frightening to my loveably germaphobic self.

Not that I’m complaining, but… October: bad cold. December: stomach virus. January: two-week-long virus that may have been influenza, despite my prior vaccination. Now: much more tolerable, but still, a cold.

Out of curiosity, I recently asked my family doctor here – a lovely, thorough British physician who really spends a ton of time with patients and is on the Maccabi HMO – why in the world I was catching things every five minutes.

She replied, "That happens to everyone during the first year here." And she went on to explain why.

The conclusion was quite interesting. Apparently, I have thrown myself into an entirely unexplored cesspool of germs to which my body must become acclimated. I guess a "foreign environment" is really a foreign environment in more ways than one – slightly different language, mannerisms, and now, viruses.

It reminds me of stories my mom told me about her pediatric rotation for her internal medicine rotation, where she was allegedly tending to the "well babies" for quite a while. Apparently, said babies weren’t so well, and she seemed to catch a new bug every week or so in her new, priorly unexplored environment. But luckily, it seemed to taper off for her after a year or so.

Yet regardless, this piece of information was fascinating to me – not to mention encouraging, that I seem to be on the same page as other olim – that illnesses, albeit quite minor ones in the scheme of things, could vary so much in their cellular fundamentals from continent to continent.

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This entry is cross-posted on Sharon’s original "Sacred and Insane" blog. You can reach Sharon at, or follow her on Twitter.

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