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Public Health Nursing
Protect Yourself against the Shingles Virus
Shingles is a disease caused by the Varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of 3 people in the U.S. will develop Shingles during their lifetime. About one half of the cases occur among men and women 60 years old or older. The risk of disease increases with age due to the decrease or weakening of the body's immune system. If a person has had chickenpox earlier in their life, the virus for some unknown reason remains dormant (inactive) in the body's nerve cells. The virus can be reactivated and strike at any time, according to the CDC, due to physical trauma, surgery, medications, and/or chronic diseases. There is no cure for Shingles. A vaccine is available that may prevent shingles or lessen its effects.
What are the signs and symptoms of Shingles?
Initially, the virus presents with pain, itching, burning, or tingling in an area where a rash will develop within 1-5 days. The red, painful rash will surface where the nerves from the spinal cord connect with the skin area. The rash usually appears on one side of the face or body as a single stripe and lasts approximately 2-4 weeks. Blisters will develop and scab over in 1-14 days. Headache, fever, chills and upset stomach may also occur. About 1 in 5 people will end up with post-herpetic neuralgia (long term nerve pain) as a result of the Shingles virus.
How is Shingles transmitted?
The Shingles virus cannot be transmitted from another person by sneezing, coughing, or through casual contact. Shingles comes from the virus hiding inside the body, not from an outside source. A person can get chickenpox if they have never had chickenpox (or the vaccine) and are directly exposed to the shingles blisters not crusted over. Anyone who has an active case should stay away from newborns, people who have immune system problems and people who have never had chickenpox.
What are the potential complications of the shingles virus?
Is there a vaccine to prevent Shingles?
There is a vaccine available called Zostavax recommended for people age 60 and older.
Is there anyone who should not get the vaccine?
The vaccine is not recommended for
How much does the vaccine cost?
In some cases, the cost of the vaccine may not be covered by Medicare or insurance. Call your insurance company and check the plan coverage. If you have Medicare D, you should be covered. Call your pharmacy and give them the Medicare number to see if there is coverage. If there is no coverage at all, contact the Department of Environmental and Public Health Services, Office of Public Health Nursing at (973) 579-0570 x 1211 for available vaccine.
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