What is shingles (herpes zoster)?
Shingles is a painful skin rash caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. Once you have had chicken pox, the virus can stay in your nervous system for many years. For reasons that are not fully understood, the virus may become active again and give you shingles. Age, increased stress, and problems with the immune system may increase your chances of getting shingles.
The shingles rash usually occurs on one side of the body, in a line along a nerve pathway. The rash begins as a cluster of small red spots that often blister. The rash can be painful. Shingles rashes can last 2-4 weeks, but in some people the nerve pain can last for months. For most people, the pain associated with the rash lessens as it heals. Other symptoms of shingles can include fever, headache, chills and upset stomach. You cannot catch shingles from another person with shingles; however a person who has never had chicken pox or been vaccinated for chicken pox could get chicken pox from someone with shingles.
Shingles is far more common in people 50 years of age and older than in younger people. At least 1 million people a year in the United States get shingles.
What is the Zostavax (shingles) vaccine?
The shingles vaccine was licensed in 2006 and in clinical trials has been proven to reduce the risk of shingles by 50%. The shingles vaccine can also reduce pain in people who still get shingles after being vaccinated.
Who should get the Zostavax (shingles) vaccine?
A single dose of the shingles vaccine is recommended for adults 50 years of age and older.
Who should not get the Zostavax (shingles) vaccine?
You should not get the shingles vaccine if you:
- Are allergic to any of its ingredients
- Are allergic to gelatin or neomycin
- Have a weakened immune system (for example, an immune deficiency, leukemia, lymphoma, or HIV/AIDS)
- Take high doses of steroids by injection or by mouth
- Are pregnant or plan to get pregnant
If you believe you have a medical emergency, please call 911.