The National Immunisation Program (NIP) provides a free shingles vaccine at 70 years of age (from November 2016). There is also a free catch-up program for 71 to 79 year olds until the end of 2021. The shingles 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. 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.
Although shingles (also sometimes called herpes zoster) is caused by carrying a virus, certain risk factors make people more susceptible to its effects. Having the virus alone doesn’t guarantee that shingles will develop, and even if it does, certain preventative measures can help keep it from returning once it’s cleared up.
The shingles vaccine has been tested on thousands of people to ensure its efficacy and safety. Most of the time, the vaccine is safely administered without any side effects. When it does cause reactions, they’re usually mild. People have reported side effects including redness, swelling, itching, or soreness in the area of skin where they were injected. A small number of people have complained of a headache after being vaccinated.
If a pregnant woman, a person with a weakened immune system or a newborn baby comes into contact with someone who has chickenpox and they’ve never had it before, they need to see a GP as soon as possible. The GP can then prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Anyone who suspects they have shingles should consider seeing their healthcare provider. In some cases, medication is prescribed to speed recovery. Medications are most effective when taken within 72 hours of the rash appearing.
A doctor is usually able to identify shingles from the rash they see either the left or right side of the body. It’s not usually necessary to do tests, however, if necessary, your doctor will test cells taken from a blister, or use the test for herpes.
In addition to antiviral medications, pain medications may be given. Both nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications and narcotic pain-control medications may be used for pain management in shingles. Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) may require additional medications to control pain.
So if you have shingles, and you come into contact with somebody else, they cannot “catch” your shingles. But if they have never had chickenpox, it is possible that they could catch chickenpox from you. (And if you had chickenpox, and came into contact with somebody else who had never had chickenpox, they could catch chickenpox. But they couldn’t “catch” shingles from your chickenpox.)
Keep the area clean with mild soap and water. Application of petroleum jelly can aid in healing. Wear loose clothing to avoid extra pain from clothing rubbing against the rash. Avoid close skin-to-skin contact with others who have not had chickenpox, are ill, or who have a weakened immune system.
Chest pain is scary but it’s not always a symptom of a heart attack. “Prior to the appearance of vesicles on the chest, patients may experience sharp or burning pain,” says Sylvia Morris, MD, a board-certified internist in Atlanta. According to Dr. Morris, chest pain that feels itchy and painful to the touch could be an early sign of shingles. (Here’s everything you need to know about a shingles diagnosis.)
Shingles is more likely to affect adults, but it could affect children as well. Though people usually develop shingles once in a lifetime, in rare cases, shingles may recur. People with a compromised immune system are definitely more likely to get affected.
Then, as the rash develops, the skin reddens in a horizontal strip resembling a “girdle”; however, unlike a girdle, the band does not encircle the body, but ends at the midsection. This means shingles usually appears on the one side of the body only. Very rarely does it appear on more than one place.
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An advisory panel of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Wednesday that all adults 50 and older receive the new two-shot vaccine, just days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its approval of Shingrix.
The shingles rash appears as painful skin blisters that appear on only one side of the face or body along the distribution of nerves in the skin. The rash may occur around the chest, upper back, abdomen, face, the limbs, neck, or lower back.
In phase 3 trials, the vaccine was 97% effective against shingles in those 50 years and older, and it was 89.8% effective for those 70 years and older. Additionally, Shingrix was shown to be 89% effective in preventing post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) in those 70 years and older and 91% effective in those 50 years and older.
Dworkin R.H., MD, et al. “Recommendations for the Management of Herpes Zoster.” Oxford Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases; 44 (Supp. 1): page 1-26. http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/44/Supplement_1/S1.long#sec-6. Accessed May 2014.