What is shingles? How did it originate?.
Shingles, which is also known as Herpes Zoster, is a common, painful rash that usually occurs on one side of the body or face. Most cases occur in older people, and it is fatal in around 1 in 1,000 cases in people over 75.
It is caused by the same virus as chickenpox, which remains inactive in people who have had the disease and can reactivate years or decades later. Anyone who has had a chickenpox infection is at risk of developing shingles.
What are the symptoms of shingles?
At first you may feel a tingling or painful sensation in an area of skin, and have a headache or feel generally unwell.
The red, blotchy shingles rash will appear a few days later, usually on the chest and tummy on one side of your body, but it can appear on the eyes, face and genitals.
The blotches develop into itchy, oozing blisters, which will dry out and scab a few days later.
Shingles can also cause fever, chills and stomach upset. It can affect your sight or hearing, or make movement in your face difficult.
Shingles usually lasts from two to four weeks. In rare cases, it can lead to complications such as pneumonia or encephalitis.
How is shingles transmitted?
You can’t catch shingles from others. However, someone who has never had chickenpox, or been vaccinated against it, can catch chickenpox from someone with shingles, because shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus.
If you have shingles, you are infectious until the blisters stop oozing fluid. Until then, you should try to avoid people who may be at risk from chickenpox or its complications.
- pregnant women who’ve not had chickenpox
- people with a weak immune system, for example having chemotherapy
- babies younger that 1 month, except your own baby, as they are protected from the virus by your immune system.
What is a shingles certificate?
A shingles certificate proves you have been vaccinated against shingles.
Is shingles curable?
An episode of shingles usually heals on its own within a few weeks, but prompt treatment can ease pain, promote healing and reduce the risk of complications.
Treatment options to ease the symptoms of shingles include:
- Oral antiviral medications in high doses
- Anti-inflammatory drugs
- Pain relievers
- Topical ointments
Below are some other ways in which you can ease the painful symptoms:
- Ask for pain relief medication from your health provider
- Use anti-itch cream or calamine lotion to soothe the affected areas
- Ask for hydrocortisone cream or oral antihistamines from your healh provider to ease the itching
- Bathe with cool water and wash the blisters twice a day with regular soap and water, but do not bandage them.
- Apply cool compresses to the blisters to relieve the pain and itch.
Who should get the shingles vaccine?
The CDC recommends that those 60 years of age or older get the shingles vaccine.
The jab is recommended for older adults who’ve has chickenpox. because they are most at risk of developing the disease. About 1 in 4 people will have shingles at least once in their life.
Who should not get the shingles vaccine?
The CDC recommends that the following groups of people do not get the shingles vaccine:
- Those who have had severe allergic reactions to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of shingles vaccine,
- Those with weakened immune systems because of:
- HIV/AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system,
- treatment with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids,
- cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy, or
- cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma.
- Women who are or might be pregnant. Women should not become pregnant until at least 4 weeks after getting shingles vaccine.
- Those with moderate or severe acute illnesses
If you have a mild illness like a cold, you may speak with your health provider about whether you may get the vaccine.
What is the effectiveness of the shingles vaccine?
Zostavax®, the shingles vaccine, reduced the risk of shingles by 51% and the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia by 67% based on a large study of more than 38,000 adults aged 60 years or older.
Although the vaccine does not guarantee 100% protection, it can reduce pain and symptoms even if you do get shingles.
What are the side effects of the shingles vaccine?
Side effects are generally mild and short lasting. Common side effects include headache, and pain, redness, swelling, itching, warmth and bruising where the injection is given.
Speak to your health provider if the side effects last longer than a few days, or if you develop a rash.
How many jabs are needed?
The vaccine is given as a single injection into the upper arm.
How long does it last for?
The CDC indicates that protection from the shingles vaccine lasts for about 5 years.