Fact: A Vaccine Can Help Prevent It
It doesnât guarantee you wonât get shingles, but a vaccine can lower your chances by more than 90%. And if you do get the condition, it might not affect you as much. The CDC recommends that healthy adults 50 or older, as well as those 19 years and older who are immunocompromised, get two doses of the vaccine Shingrix. The shots are taken 2 to 6 months apart. Exceptions are if you currently have shingles, are pregnant, or a test shows you have immunity. You likely have been exposed to chickenpox even if you didnât develop blisters, so you should get the vaccine even if you don’t remember being ill.
How Does It Spread
Shingles spreads via contact with the fluid or pus in a persons blisters.
If a person comes into contact with this, they may develop chickenpox if they have never had it or the varicella vaccine, also known as the chickenpox vaccine.
Shingles can transmit via coughing and sneezing only if blisters have developed in the persons oral cavity.
- practicing good hand hygiene by frequently washing both hands
Who Should Be Vaccinated With Shingrix
The Shingrix vaccine is recommended for those 50 years of age and older who are in good health.
You should get the Shingrix vaccine even if:
- Youve had shingles already.
- Youve been previously vaccinated with Zostavax . If youve been vaccinated with Zostavax, wait at least eight weeks before getting vaccinated with Shingrix.
- You dont know for sure if youve ever had chickenpox.
Ask your healthcare provider, who knows your entire health history if getting this vaccine is right for you.
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You Cannot Get Shingles From Someone With Chickenpox
You cannot get shingles from someone with shingles or chickenpox.
But you can get chickenpox from someone with shingles if you have not had chickenpox before.
When people get chickenpox, the virus remains in the body. It can be reactivated later and cause shingles if someone’s immune system is lowered.
This can be because of stress, certain conditions, or treatments like chemotherapy.
Shingles And Chickenpox Vaccination
The National Immunisation Program provides a free shingles vaccine, Zostavax® at 70 years of age . There is also a free catch-up program for 71 to 79 year olds until the end of 2021. The Zostavax® vaccine is available on prescription for people aged 50 to 69 years and from 80 years but it must be paid for by the patient.
Zostavax® vaccine contains live attenuated varicella-zoster virus, containing 14 times more virus than childhood varicella vaccines and is contraindicated in immunocompromised people. Zostavax® vaccine should not to be used in people with compromised immune function due to the risk of disseminated disease from the vaccine virus.
- Safety advisory – Zostavax® vaccine for health professionals and consumers
Vaccination is still recommended for people who have had shingles infection in the past. It is recommended to wait at least a year after recovery.
The NIP provides a free chickenpox vaccine to children aged 18 months of age and as catch-up for children up to 20 years of age as part of the No Jab No Pay legislation. People aged 14 years and older require two doses of the chickenpox vaccine, one to two months apart. People from 20 years of age must purchase the vaccine privately.
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How Is Shingles Spread
A person must have already had chickenpox in the past to develop shingles. A person cannot get shingles from a person that has shingles. However, the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles can be spread from a person with active shingles to a person who has never had chickenpox or had the chickenpox vaccine. The person exposed to the virus would develop chickenpox, not shingles. A person with shingles can spread the virus when the rash is in the blister-phase. The blister fluid is filled with virus particles. The virus is spread through direct contact with the rash or through breathing in virus particles that get mixed in the air. Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer contagious. A person is not infectious before blisters appear or if pain persists after the rash is gone .
When To Seek Medical Advice
Shingles is not usually serious, but you should see your GP as soon as possible if you recognise the symptoms. Early treatment may help reduce the severity of your symptoms and the risk of developing complications.
You should also see your GP if you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system and you think you have been exposed to someone with chickenpox or shingles and haven’t had chickenpox before.
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Can You Catch Shingles From Someone
A very contagious virus named the Varicella zoster virus that causes chicken pox is the reason behind the development of Shingles. When a person suffers from Shingles, he or she can spread the virus, through the fluid filled, oozing blisters that develop around the left or right side of the torso.
Once the person suffers from chicken pox, the Varicella zoster virus stays in the blood forever, but in an inactive form. However, if you have a weak immunity or immune system, the virus may be reactivated. It affects the nervous tissue and thus, one gets the fluid filled blisters in the area that has the affected nerves.
Who Is At Risk For Getting Shingles
People who have had chickenpox who are more likely to develop shingles include those:
- With a weakened immune system .
- Over the age of 50.
- Who have been ill.
- Who have experienced trauma.
- Who are under stress.
The chickenpox virus doesnt leave your body after you have chickenpox. Instead, the virus stays in a portion of your spinal nerve root called the dorsal root ganglion. For the majority of people, the virus stays there quietly and doesn’t cause problems. Researchers aren’t always sure why the virus gets reactivated, but this typically occurs at times of stress.
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Are There Complications Of Shingles
Shingles can have complications that last long after the rash is gone, including:
- Brain inflammation or facial paralysis if it affects certain nerves
- Eye problems and vision loss if your rash was in or around your eye
- Pain that lasts long after the outbreak, called postherpetic neuralgia. It affects up to 1 in 5 people who get shingles.
Can Infection With Vzv During Pregnancy Harm The Baby
Some infections can be transmitted across the mothers bloodstream to the fetus or can be acquired by the baby during the birth process. Chickenpox during pregnancy poses some risk to the unborn child, depending upon the stage of pregnancy. During the first 30 weeks, maternal chickenpox may, in some cases, lead to congenital malformations . Most experts agree that shingles in a pregnant woman is even less likely to cause harm to the unborn child.
If a pregnant woman gets chickenpox between 21 to 5 days before giving birth, her newborn can have chickenpox at birth or develop it within a few days. But the time lapse between the start of the mothers illness and the birth of the baby generally allows the mothers immune system to react and produce antibodies to fight the virus. These antibodies can be transmitted to the unborn child and thus help fight the infection. Still, a small percent of the babies exposed to chickenpox in the 21 to 5 days before birth develop shingles in the first 5 years of life because the newborns immune system is not yet fully functional and capable of keeping the virus latent.
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What Is Postherpetic Neuralgia
Sometimes, particularly in older people, shingles pain persists long after the rash has healed. This is postherpetic neuralgia, defined as pain lasting three months after onset of the rash. Pain can be mild or severethe most severe cases can lead to insomnia, weight loss, depression, and disability. There may be other sensations, such as tingling, coldness, or loss of feeling. About 20 percent of people age 70 or greater who develop shingles may have long-lasting pain. Postherpetic neuralgia is not directly life-threatening and may get better over time.
About a dozen medications in four categories have been shown in clinical trials to provide some pain relief for postherpetic neuralgia. These include:
Tricyclic antidepressants : TCAs are often the first type of drug given to people suffering from postherpetic neuralgia. The TCA amitryptiline was commonly prescribed in the past, but although effective, it has a high rate of side effects. Desipramine and nortriptyline have fewer side effects and are therefore better choices for older adults, the most likely group to have postherpetic neuralgia.
Common side effects of TCAs include dry eyes and mouth, constipation, and impaired memory. People with heart arrhythmias , previous heart attacks, or narrow angle glaucoma should usually use a different class of drugs.
Is Shingles Airborne
While chickenpox is an airborne disease, with shingles the virus can only be transmitted by contact with fluid from the rash or blisters if the person with shingles has a localized rash and has a competent immune system. In such people, airborne transmission is not a concern.
However, for people who are immunocompromised or have disseminated zoster with lesions outside of the primary area, airborne transmission is possible.
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What If Im Pregnant
Pregnant women can develop severe chickenpox. Most adult women are already protected against chickenpox by antibodies in their blood. If you are thinking of getting pregnant and have not had chickenpox, ask your doctor about whether you can be vaccinated.
If you are pregnant and have not had chickenpox, or if you have not lived in the same house with someone who has had chickenpox or shingles, call your doctor right away if you are exposed to chickenpox. Your doctor may want to give you an injection of varicella-zoster immune globulin to help prevent you from getting a severe infection.
If you catch chickenpox early in your pregnancy, there is a very small chance of it harming your unborn baby.
Is Shingles Contagious 2 Methods Of Transmission To Avoid
Exactly how you get shingles can be confusing: it’s technically the reactivation of chickenpox and is caused by the same pesky virus .
But is shingles contagious? What are the riskiest transmission methods? How long is it contagious? What can you do to avoid getting shingles transmitted to you? What even causes shingles?
We’ll be covering everything below, but let’s start with a basic question.
Feature image: Wikimedia/Fisle
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How Is Shingles Diagnosed
The clinical appearance of shingles, with characteristic painful blisters localized to the region of a specific nerve on one side of the body, is usually sufficient to establish the diagnosis. No diagnostic tests are typically required. However, particularly in people with impaired immune function, shingles may sometimes not display the characteristic clinical pattern. In these cases, samples from the affected area may be tested in a laboratory, either by culturing the tissue or blister drainage for growth of the virus or by identifying the genetic material of the virus.
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What Are The Symptoms And Signs Of Shingles
The first symptom of shingles is often burning or tingling pain, or itch, generally in a band-like distribution on one side of the body, i.e., around the waist, chest, stomach, or back. Shingles pain can be mild or intense. Some people have mostly itching some feel severe pain from the gentlest touch, such as the weight of bed linens or clothing. A few people may have general symptoms of a viral infection, like fatigue, fever, and headache.
After several days or up to two weeks after the first symptoms are felt, a rash of fluid-filled blisters appears. These are similar to chickenpox but occur in a cluster rather than scattered over the body. The number of vesicles is variable. Some rashes merge and produce an area that looks like a burn. Other people may have just a few small scattered lesions. The clusters most often appear in a band called a dermatome, which contains nerves that branch out from the virus-affected nerve root exiting the spine. The second most common location is on one side of the face around the eye and on the forehead. However, shingles can involve any part of the body, including internal organs.
Recent studies have shown that subtle cases of shingles with only a few blisters, or none, are more common than previously thought. These cases may remain unrecognized.
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Additional Risk Factors For Shingles
- Having a disease that weakens the immune system, such as HIV and cancer
- Receiving cancer treatment or other medications that weaken the immune system
- Experiencing long-term use of steroids, like prednisone
- Being over the age of 50, which puts you at greater risk for shingles
Have further questions about shingles? Dont hesitate to ask our AFC Urgent Care Indian Trail, as we can help!
What Should You Expect If You Get Shingles
Shingles can be a very painful condition. If you think you have the symptoms of shingles, see your healthcare provider right away. Starting antiviral medications early can ease your discomfort and end symptoms earlier.
A better approach to shingles is to take action and do what you can to lessen your risk of getting it. If you’ve never had shingles in the past, talk to your healthcare provider about getting the shingles vaccine. If youve never had chickenpox, talk with your healthcare provider about getting the chickenpox vaccine.
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Can You Still Develop Shingles If Youve Been Vaccinated For Chickenpox
Yes. Despite being vaccinated for chickenpox, you can still get shingles. No vaccine is 100% protective, and the effectiveness of vaccines lessens with time. However, people who get the chickenpox vaccine are significantly less likely to develop shingles later in life compared with people who never received the chickenpox vaccine. One recent 12-year study found that the number of shingles cases was 72% lower in children who had received the chickenpox vaccine compared with those who didnt.
How Long Does A Shingles Outbreak Last
It can take three to five weeks from the time you begin to feel symptoms until the rash totally disappears.
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Why Doesnt Having Chickenpox Earlier In Life Provide Immunity Against Having Shingles Later
After having chickenpox, your body doesnt rid your system of the virus. Instead, the virus stays in a portion of the spinal nerve root called the dorsal root ganglion. In most people, the virus simply stays there quietly and doesnt cause problems. Scientists arent always sure why the virus gets active again, but they know stress can be a cause.
Can Shingles Come Back
Given that shingles results from the varicella zoster virus reactivating some amount of time after having chickenpox, you may be wondering if the virus can…re-reactivate after having shingles.
“Once shingles clears up, the virus simply goes back into hiding and, unfortunately, it can reactivate again in the future,” says Dr. Brown. “As far as the likelihood of shingles reoccurring, that’s still largely up for debate. One study found that the chance of getting shingles a second time is about 5%, but other studies show this number to be lower.”
One way to reduce your risk of getting shingles twice is the same preventive measure that helps prevent you from ever getting it in the first place: the shingles vaccine.
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Why Does Shingles Appear Mostly On One Side Or In One Area Of Your Body
The virus travels in specific nerves, so you will often see shingles occur in a band on one side of your body. This band corresponds to the area where the nerve transmits signals. The shingles rash stays somewhat localized to an area. It doesnt spread over your whole body. Your torso is a common area, as is your face.
Preventing The Virus Spreading
If you have the shingles rash, do not share towels or flannels, go swimming, or play contact sports. This will help prevent the virus being passed on to someone who has not had chickenpox.
You should also avoid work or school if your rash is weeping and cannot be covered.
Chickenpox can be particularly dangerous for certain groups of people. If you have shingles, avoid:
- women who are pregnant and have not had chickenpox before as they could catch it from you, which may harm their unborn baby
- people who have a weak immune system, such as someone with HIV or AIDS
- babies less than one month old, unless it is your own baby, in which case your baby should have antibodies to protect them from the virus
Once your blisters have dried and scabbed over, you are no longer contagious and will not need to avoid anyone.
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