Shingles is a painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. It is a condition that can affect people of all ages; however, it is more common in adults over the age of 50 or adults who are experiencing conditions that weaken the immune system. Some conditions and treatments that may weaken an individual’s immune system include: some diseases and cancers that affect the body’s immune response; medications that suppress the immune system; chemotherapy; infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The first symptoms of shingles include itching, burning and tingling in one specific area on one side of the body. Additionally, some may experience a fever, headache or general feeling of discomfort. These initial symptoms are followed by a painful rash of blisters in a band-like pattern — most commonly occurring on the upper body.
According to UpToDate, an online medical journal, “It is not possible to catch shingles from another person. However, if you have never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, you can develop chickenpox after direct skin-to-skin contact with a shingles blister or by inhaling the virus in the air. You should take precautions if you are near anyone with shingles. If you have had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, being near a person with shingles will not cause you to develop shingles.”
At SCF the journey toward wellness is walked in partnership, if you are an adult over the age of 50, are experiencing symptoms associated to shingles, or work in a profession that increases your risk of exposure such as health care workers, teachers, and daycare workers, SCF recommends that you discuss available options with your provider. There are two vaccines available to help prevent shingles. Zostavax has been available for several years for those 60 years or older. A new two dose vaccine, Shingrix is recommended at age 50 and older, and is the preferred vaccine to prevent shingles. Individuals who have already received Zostavax can also receive the new vaccine. Individuals should discuss with their provider which vaccinations are appropriate for them.
SCF would also like to remind everyone that October is flu season and flu shots and good hand hygiene are effective ways to help reduce the spread of germs.