Larry D. Jones
July 24, 2012
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost one out of every three people in the United States will develop shingles. Anyone who has recovered from chickenpox may develop shingles; even children can get shingles. However, the risk of getting shingles increases as a person gets older. About half of all cases occur among men and women 60 years old or older.
Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays in the body in a dormant (inactive) state. For reasons that are not fully known, the virus can reactivate years later, causing shingles.
Shingles usually starts as a painful rash on one side of the face or body. The rash forms blisters that typically scab over in 7–10 days and clears up within 2–4 weeks.
Before the rash develops, there is often pain and itching in the area where the rash will develop. This may happen anywhere from 1 to 5 days before the rash appears. Most commonly, the rash occurs in a single stripe around either the left or the right side of the body. In other cases, the rash occurs on one side of the face.
Shingles cannot be passed from one person to another. However, the virus that causes shingles, the varicella zoster virus, can be spread from a person with active shingles to a person who has never had chickenpox.
In such cases, the person exposed to the virus might develop chickenpox, but they would not develop shingles. The virus is spread through direct contact with fluid from the rash blisters, not through sneezing, coughing or casual contact.
The only way to reduce the risk of developing shingles and the long-term pain that can follow shingles is to get vaccinated. A vaccine for shingles is licensed for persons aged 60 years and older.
To learn more about the Shingles vaccine contact your health care provider or the Independence Health Department at 325-7185.
*information provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov