Anyone who has had chickenpox can develop shingles because the virus remains in the nerve cells of the body after the chickenpox infection clears.
Shingles is a painful localized skin rash often with blisters that is caused by the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has had chickenpox can develop shingles because VZV remains in the nerve cells of the body after the chickenpox infection clears and VZV can reappear years later causing shingles.
Shingles most commonly occurs in people 50 years old or older, people who have medical conditions that keep the immune system from working properly, or people who receive immunosuppressive drugs. Shingles vaccine is recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to reduce the risk of shingles and its associated pain in people 60 years old or older.
Who Should Get the Vaccine
CDC recommends Zostavax for use in people 60 years old and older to prevent shingles. This is a one-time vaccination. There is no maximum age for getting the shingles vaccine. Anyone 60 years of age or older should get the 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 don’t remember getting the disease.
Shingles vaccine is available in pharmacies and doctors’ offices. Talk with your healthcare professional if you have questions about the vaccine.
At this time, CDC does not have a recommendation for routine use of shingles vaccine in persons 50 through 59 years old. However, the vaccine is approved by FDA for people in this age group.
Even if you have had shingles, you can still receive the vaccine to help prevent future occurrences of the disease. There is no specific time that you must wait after having shingles before receiving the vaccine. The decision on when to get vaccinated should be made with your health care provider. Generally, a person should make sure that the shingles rash has disappeared before getting vaccinated.
To find medical practices or pharmacies near you that offer the vaccine, visit www.zostavax.com
Photo: CDC Images