3 11 2006

All of my older relatives have had shingles.  It’s a painful skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.  After we recover from chickenpox, the virus stays in our bodies and sometimes it can reappear later as shingles.

My relatives who went through a bout of shingles reported extreme and long-lasting pain.  Until recently, I’ve been dreading going through the same thing at some point.  I’m so relieved they now have a vaccine to prevent this very painful rash.

The trick is to try and get vaccinated before shingles develops.  The vaccine doesn’t treat shingles or the pain that accompanies it – it’s for prevention only.

The vaccine was approved by the ACIP (Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices) on 25 October 2006 for people age 60 and older, even if a person has had a case of shingles in the past.  In rare instances, people may develop two or even three cases of shingles over time.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) said this about the vaccine and shingles:

While the ability for the vaccine to prevent shingles declined with age, the risk of chronic pain among those older vaccinated persons who still developed shingles was lowered. The most common reported side effects in vaccine recipients were mild, such as reactions at the injection site and headache.

Varicella zoster virus (VZV) causes varicella, or chickenpox and becomes dormant within the nerves following exposure or a case of chickenpox. It can reactivate later in life to cause shingles. About 25% of people develop zoster during their lifetime, and there are about one million cases of shingles per year. The risk is highest in the elderly, and it increases with age starting at around 50 years. Shingles often causes chronic pain, and the risk of suffering chronic pain increases with age, starting at 60 years. Shingles is much less contagious than chickenpox.

I’m not quite 60 yet, so I wish they’d lowered the recommended age for this vaccine.  If you or your loved ones are of the appropriate age, get vaccinated.  I’ve seen what shingles can do and it’s too painful.



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