Who Should Get Shingrix
Adults 50 years and older should get two doses of Shingrix, separated by 2 to 6 months. Adults 19 years and older who have or will have weakened immune systems because of disease or therapy should also get two doses of Shingrix. If needed, people with weakened immune systems can get the second dose 1 to 2 months after the first.
You should get Shingrix even if in the past you:
- Received varicella vaccine
There is no maximum age for getting Shingrix.
If you had shingles in the past, Shingrix can help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific length of time that you need to wait after having shingles before you can receive Shingrix, but generally you should make sure the shingles rash has gone away before getting vaccinated.
Chickenpox and shingles are related because they are caused by the same virus . After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body. It can reactivate years later and cause shingles.
Shingrix is available in doctors offices and pharmacies.
If you have questions about Shingrix, talk with your healthcare provider.
* A shingles vaccine called zoster vaccine live is no longer available for use in the United States, as of November 18, 2020. If you had Zostavax in the past, you should still get Shingrix. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine the best time to get Shingrix.
What To Know About Shingles And The Chickenpox Vaccine
The chickenpox vaccine is not causing a surge or epidemic of shingles. In fact, in addition to reducing your children’s risk of developing chickenpox, it can likely reduce their risk of developing shingles later in life.
Weinmann S. Incidence and clinical characteristics of herpes zoster among children in the varicella vaccine era, 20052009. Journal of Infection Diseases. 2013 208:1859-68.
- Hales, Craig M. Examination of Links Between Herpes Zoster Incidence and Childhood Varicella Vaccination. Ann Intern Med. 2013 159:739-745.
- Leung J. Herpes zoster incidence among insured persons in the United States, 1993-2006: evaluation of the impact of varicella vaccination. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2011 52:332-340.
- Russell ML. Shingles in Alberta: before and after publicly funded varicella vaccination. Vaccine. Volume 32, Issue 47, 29 October 2014, Pages 63196324.
How Is It Spread
Chickenpox spreads easily. It is most contagious on the day before the rash appears.
- It spreads from person to person through direct contact with the virus. You can get chickenpox if you touch a blister or the liquid from a blister. You can also get chickenpox if you touch the saliva of a person who has chickenpox. The virus enters the body by the nose or mouth and can make you sick, too.
- It can also be spread to you through the air if you are near someone with chickenpox who is coughing or sneezing.
- A pregnant woman with chickenpox can pass it on to her baby before birth.
- Mothers with chickenpox can also give it to their newborn babies after birth.
The only way to stop the spread of the virus from person to person is to prevent infected people from sharing the same room or house with healthy people, which isnt a practical solution. Chickenpox cannot be spread through indirect contact.
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Are Chickenpox And Shingles Serious Illnesses
The symptoms may be more severe in newborns, persons with weakened immune systems, and adults. Serious problems can occur and may include pneumonia , brain infection , and kidney problems. Many people are not aware that before a vaccine was available, approximately 10,600 persons were hospitalized, and 100 to 150 died, as a result of chickenpox in the U.S. every year.
How Do I Know If I Have The Shingles And What Should I Do
Shingles is a reactivated virus which often causes pain and skin lesions, says Asfana Alam, DO, MPH, a family medicine doctor at NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group Hudson Valley. The rash usually presents on one side of the body with an eruption of little blisters called vesicles, which causes fever and inflammation.
If shingles is caught earlywithin the first 72 hours of the rash, we can treat it with anti-viral medication, says Dr. Alam. Without treatment, the rash usually goes away within two weeks. But, some people develop a condition called called postherpetic neuralgia a persistent pain in the area of the rash even after it has cleared up which can last for months and, in rare cases, years, Dr. Alam says.
Shingles can only be spread to someone who never had chickenpox and it actually causes chickenpox, not shingles. However, the only way it is spread is through direct contact with the fluid from the blistery rashes.
Fortunately, medications are available that can both shorten the duration of the rash and decrease the likelihood of postherpetic neuralgia if given quickly.
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Chickenpox Shingles And Vaccines: Expert Shares What You Need To Know
Chickenpox and shingles generally wont kill you, but for some adults, they could result in a trip to the hospital. So with a new shingles vaccine now available, should you consider vaccination to avoid chickenpox and shingles as an adult?
What is chickenpox, exactly?
Its an infection caused by the varicella zoster virus. In children, its usually a mild disease that runs its course in five to 10 days and requires no medical intervention. But in those who develop chickenpox as teens or adults, theres a risk of complications, including pneumonia, skin infections and brain swelling.
Whats the difference between chickenpox and shingles?
Adults can develop shingles if theyve already had chickenpox. Also called herpes zoster, shingles is a reactivation of the virus that causes chickenpox. After you recover from chickenpox, the virus doesnt entirely disappear it lies dormant in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. When it springs into action again as a painful skin rash, thats shingles.
This time, the pain will likely come before the rash some people only experience the pain without any visible symptoms. Like chickenpox, shingles usually isnt life-threatening, but it can cause complications, including neurological problems, skin infections and eye infections that lead to vision loss.
What Can Parents Do To Protect Their Children From Chickenpox
The best way to protect children from chickenpox is to have them vaccinated.
If your child is not yet vaccinated and comes in contact with another child who has chickenpox, he may still be protected if he is vaccinated right away.
If one of your children has chickenpox, it will probably spread to other members of the household who are not already immune. If someone else catches the infection, it will appear two to three weeks after the first family member got it.
If your child has an immune system disorder, contact your doctor. The doctor can give the child a special type of immune globulin , which contains a large number of antibodies , to help prevent infection, or he can provide early treatment with an antiviral drug.
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Who Is At Risk For Chickenpox
Any child or adult who has never had chickenpox or been vaccinated against it is at risk for getting the disease.
Chickenpox is passed from person-to-person by direct contact or through the air by coughing and sneezing. It can also be spread by being exposed to the fluid from the blistering rash. Once exposed, symptoms usually appear within a couple of weeks. But it may take as few as 10 and as many as 21 days for the chickenpox to develop.
Chickenpox is contagious for 1 to 2 days before the rash starts and until the blisters have all dried and become scabs. The blisters usually dry and become scabs within 5 to 7 days of the onset of the rash. Children should stay home and away from other children until all of the blisters have scabbed over. It is important that people who are infected avoid those with weak immune systems, such as those with organ transplants, HIV, or those getting cancer treatment.
Family members who have never had chickenpox have a high chance of becoming infected when another family member in the house is infected. The illness is often more severe in adults compared to children.
What If Youre Over 50 And Have Never Had Chickenpox
If youre over 50 and confident that youve never had exposure to chickenpox, a primary doctor can run a blood test to determine your level of chickenpox immunity.
If it turns out that youve never been exposed to chickenpox, consider getting vaccinated against the virus to protect against any future exposure.
Most adults between 30 and 50 years old dont need to worry about racing to get either the chickenpox or shingles vaccine.
Consider getting the shingles vaccine before turning 50 if you:
- work in an industry that might have higher exposure to chickenpox, like healthcare or teaching
Do not get a chickenpox vaccine if you:
- previously had a life-threatening allergic reaction to a previous dose of chickenpox vaccine or any ingredient of the vaccine
- are moderately or severely ill
Talk with a doctor before getting a chickenpox vaccine if you:
- have HIV or another condition that affects your immune system
- are taking a medication that affects your immune system for 2 weeks or longer
- have cancer of any kind or are taking medications for cancer
- have recently had a blood transfusion
Before shingles appear, youll normally develop:
- pain in the body
The shingles rash typically starts as a single strip rash around the side of the body. It may eventually break out to another nearby area if you spread it by scratching.
How Can Chickenpox Be Treated
If your child gets chickenpox, do not give him aspirin or any products that contain aspirin. Taking aspirin increases the risk of getting Reyes syndrome. This severe illness can damage the liver and brain. If you want to control your childs fever, use acetaminophen .
Taking good care of the skin and not scratching it may prevent infections that can be caused by bacteria that get into the skin. Your doctor may recommend a medication to help reduce the itch.
Who Should Not Get The Shingles Vaccine
Some people shouldnt get the shingles vaccine. These people include those:
- Who currently have shingles.
- Who have had a severe allergic reaction to the shingles vaccine in the past.
- Who have tested negative for immunity to the varicella-zoster virus, meaning youve never had chickenpox. If youve never had chickenpox, you should get the chickenpox vaccine.
- Who are ill. You should wait until your illness has passed before receiving the shingles vaccine.
- Who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Shingles
The most common symptoms are pain, itching or tingling of the skin. This is followed by a painful rash with blisters. The rash is usually only on a small area on one side of the body. Other early symptoms can include headache, fever, chills and nausea. The rash from shingles usually lasts two to four weeks.
How You Get Shingles
To develop shingles, a person needs to have been infected with the varicella-zoster virus. That means you need to have had chickenpox to get shingles later in life.
Just because a person has had chickenpox doesnt mean theyll definitely have shingles in adulthood. Varicella-zoster lays dormant in the nerve cells and, in most people, never causes a problem again. In some people, however, the virus reactivates and produces shingles.
If a person has never had chickenpox, they cannot get shingles. But they can get adult chickenpox. Only after getting chickenpox would they be at risk of getting shingles later in their life.
Most people who get chickenpox as a child will be immune to the disease for the rest of their lives. In rare cases, people can get chickenpox more than once.
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The Signs And Symptoms Of Shingles
The reactivation of the virus occurs along the nerves of the body, and causes the following common signs of shingles:
- A rash that appears as a string of small blisters and is found on one side of the body. It is most concerning when it occurs on the face and near the eyes. If the rash and infection involve the eyes, a serious complication called keratitis can occur, which could result in damage to the cornea or vision loss. The rash may also cause itching and burning.
- Pain is the most common symptom. The pain from the rash can last long after the skin has returned to normal. This condition is known as postherpetic neuralgia.
- Fatigue may also accompany the rash and pain.
What Are The Risks Of Shingles
About one in five people who get shingles will have severe pain after the rash goes away. This pain can last months or even years. This pain is known as post-herpetic neuralgia.
Rare complications of shingles include scarring, pneumonia, loss of hearing or vision, swelling of the brain and bacterial superinfections of the rash.
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Shingles Vaccination What You Should Know:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends shingles vaccine for people 60 years of age and older. This is a one-time vaccination to prevent shingles. There is no maximum age for getting the shingles vaccine.
Anyone 60 years of age or older should get the shingles vaccine, regardless of whether they recall having had chickenpox or not. Studies show that more than 99% of Americans ages 40 and older have had chickenpox, even if they dont remember getting the disease.
Your risk for getting shingles begins to rise around age 50. However, shingles vaccine is only recommended for persons age 60 and older because the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine have only been studied in this age group.
Even if you have had shingles, you can still receive the shingles vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific time that you must wait after having shingles before receiving the shingles vaccine. The decision on when to get vaccinated should be made with your healthcare provider. Generally, a person should make sure that the shingles rash has disappeared before getting vaccinated.
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
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Can I Still Get Shingles If Ive Had Chickenpox
This is a bit of a trick question. You can only get shingles if youve already had chickenpox. Shingles can develop in anyone who has had chickenpox. If you havent had chickenpox but are exposed to someone with chickenpox or shingles, regardless of your age, you will develop chickenpox first. Age is an important factor when thinking about shingles. Its most common in adults over 50, but anyone can contract shingles. With age, the likeliness of developing postherpetic neuralgia rises drastically. Not only is the risk higher with age, but the pain caused by the condition intensifies with age, though its not understood why this seems to be the case.
Even without PHN, shingles is an extremely painful and disruptive condition. Doctors have developed a shingles vaccine called Zostavax that can be administered yearly. The vaccine can be administered if youre over 50 years old. If youre over 60, its highly recommended that you get the Zostavax vaccine. The shingles vaccine can reduce your chances of developing shingles by 50%, and it also makes the virus less communicable if you do catch it. Symptoms of shingles are less severe with vaccinated individuals, and theyre far less likely to develop postherpetic neuralgia after the shingles clears up.
So Which People Should Get The Shingles Vaccine
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , any adult who is 50 years of age or older should get the two-dose shingles vaccine. The vaccine helps to minimize or prevent complications caused by shingles. More importantly, individuals who are unsure of chickenpox status, received the older Zostavax vaccine, which is no longer available, or have had shingles should get the vaccine. The vaccine is available in both medical offices and at many pharmacies.
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How Do You Catch Shingles
You do not “catch” shingles it comes on when there’s a reactivation of chickenpox virus that’s already in your body.
After you’ve recovered from chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus lies dormant in your nerve cells and can reactivate at a later stage when your immune system is weakened.
Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles.
I’m Pregnant And Have Recently Been Exposed To Someone With Chickenpox How Will This Exposure Affect Me Or My Pregnancy
- Susceptible pregnant women are at risk for associated complications when they contract varicella. Varicella infection causes severe illness in pregnant women, and 10%-20% of those infected develop varicella pneumonia, with mortality reported as high as 40%.
- Because of these risks, pregnant women without evidence of immunity to varicella who have been exposed to the virus may be given varicella-zoster immune globulin to reduce their risk of disease complications.
- If you are pregnant and have never had chickenpox, and you get chickenpox during the:
- First half of your pregnancy, there is a very slight risk for birth defects or miscarriage.
- Second half of your pregnancy, the baby may have infection without having any symptoms and then get shingles later in life.
- Newborns whose mothers develop varicella rash from 5 days before to 2 days after delivery are at risk for neonatal varicella, associated with mortality as high as 30%. These infants should receive preventive treatment with varicella-zoster immune globulin .
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