It's a good thing David Letterman was due for a vacation next week. The infection that's sidelined him this week and forced him to call in sick for only the second time in his 21 years in late night may have been caused by stress. It's shingles, his doctor said Thursday, and it could keep him off the air beyond his scheduled return date of March 10.
Letterman, who sported a swollen right eye Tuesday and joked on the air about how painful it was, took the rest of the week off to seek treatment, marking his first sick days since his heart surgery in 2000. ''Tests have shown that Dave's eye infection is a result of shingles,'' said his doctor Louis Aronne, in a statement on Thursday. ''It has been treated, and the area of inflammation has gone down significantly. Dave is on his way to a full recovery.'' Still, it was not clear if Letterman would be well enough to return to ''The Late Show'' as scheduled.
Shingles is an infection of the nerve endings that is caused by the reactivation of the virus that causes chicken pox. In those who've had chicken pox, the virus can be reawakened through physical or emotional stress.
''Late Show'' producers, who promoted Bruce Willis from guest to host on Wednesday, initially said the rest of this week's new shows would be canceled, but Thursday night's show went on, with John McEnroe as guest host. Regis Philbin is due to sit at Dave's desk on Friday. Next week's shows will be reruns.