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Shingles - What you Should Know

Know where to go for your vaccinations

By Vaccines411.ca

What is shingles?
Shingles is a serious disease that commonly appears as a painful, blistering rash, usually affecting part of one side of the body.1 Shingles can last several weeks.1 Shingles pain varies between individuals – it may cause mild discomfort or be severe enough to interfere with normal day-to-day activities.2

Who is at risk for shingles?
Shingles occurs when the varicella zoster virus (VZV) that causes chickenpox (usually in childhood) is reactivated after years of dormancy.3 Anyone who has had chickenpox, which includes an estimated 90 percent of people over age 50, is at risk of shingles.3 The likelihood of developing shingles increases with age, especially after age 50, as immune defenses gradually decline and it becomes harder to fight off infections.1 Shingles risk is also increased for individuals whose immune system is compromised for other reasons, such as due to cancer, HIV/AIDS, or use of immunosuppressive treatment.1 The severity of symptoms and the risk of having complications also increase with advancing age.1

Should you get a shingles vaccination?
Most adults have the chickenpox virus in their bodies – approximately one in three will develop shingles in their lifetime.3 Because shingles risk increases with age, about half of all cases occur in adults age 60 or older, and the chance of getting shingles becomes much greater by age 70.2 If you are age 50 or more, ask your physician whether shingles vaccination is right for you.4 

Can you get shingles more than once?
Having had shingles does not protect you from another outbreak, although recurrence is not common.5

Can you catch shingles from someone who has it?
You cannot develop (or “catch”) shingles from another person.6 The varicella zoster virus can be spread from someone who has shingles to someone who has never had chickenpox (or the chickenpox vaccine) – infection with the virus would cause them to develop chickenpox.6 Transmission of the varicella zoster virus can occur when a person comes into direct contact with fluid from shingles blisters.6 The risk of spreading the virus may be reduced if the person who has shingles keeps the rash covered, avoids scratching or touching it, and washes their hands often.6

Can shingles be treated?
Prompt treatment with an antiviral medication can help your body fight off the infection, and may reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.2 Treatment should be started as soon as possible after development of early symptoms – such as sensations of burning, itching, tingling or sensitivity to the touch.2

Where can I get a shingles vaccination?
Not sure where to find the vaccination provider closest to you? Vaccines411.ca can help – just type in your postal code to get a list of nearby pharmacies and clinics that offer vaccinations, along with their contact information so you can confirm availability of shingles vaccines.

Talk to your doctor about what immunizations you may need, and visit Vaccines411.ca for vaccine information and to find the vaccinating clinic nearest you.

Sources

  1. Fact Sheet Shingles (Herpes Zoster) - Canada.ca
    https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/infectious-diseases/fact-sheet-shingles-herpes-zoster.html
  2. NIH National Institute on Aging (NIA). Shingles.
    https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/shingles
  3. National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. Facts about shingles for adults.
    http://www.adultvaccination.org/vpd/shingles/facts.html
  4. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles (Herpes Zoster): Prevention & Treatment.
    https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/prevention-treatment.html
  5. Shingles can strike twice. Will the shingles vaccine help? Urmila Parlikar. Harvard Health Publishing.
    https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/shingles-can-strike-twice-will-the-shingles-vaccine-help-201103021531
  6. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles (Herpes Zoster): Transmission
    https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/transmission.html

 

Winter 2019, Vol 11 N°1

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Winter 2019
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