Caused by the same virus responsible for chickenpox, shingles is a viral infection that produces a rash and causes intense pain. A few years ago, a new shingles vaccine in DC became available. Let’s take a look at some of the common questions surrounding shingles and its vaccine.
What Is Shingles and How Do You Get It?
Shingles arises from having had chickenpox in the past. Both chickenpox and shingles are caused by the Herpes Zoster virus.
The virus lies dormant after chickenpox infection, and it reactivates later in some people to cause a shingles infection. While children can get shingles, this is rare.
People who have an active shingles infection, or those who have chickenpox can spread the Herpes Zoster virus. A person who has never had the chickenpox or the vaccine for chickenpox may contract chickenpox from someone with an active shingles infection in the blister phase.
It’s important to note that one cannot spread shingles to someone else, but only infect another person with the virus Herpes Zoster, which will cause chickenpox unless the person is vaccinated or immune to chickenpox.
A person with an active shingles infection can help stop the spread of the virus to others by covering the affected area. When the blisters crust over, the person is no longer contagious.
What Are the Symptoms of Shingles?
The first sign of shingles is usually pain, itching, or tingling in an area on one side of the body. This sensation can appear many days before rash does.
Common areas for the Shingles rash include one side of the head, shoulder, or trunk. Rarely, the rash is more widespread for those with severely compromised immune systems.
Other symptoms can include fever, headache, chills, and stomach upset.
How is Shingles Treated?
Typical treatment can include antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, etc. These may shorten the severity and duration of the illness.
Other treatments include pain relievers and wet compresses to ease the pain of the rash. Some patients find oatmeal baths and calamine lotion soothing as well.
Are There Complications?
Some people who have shingles do experience long-term nerve pain. The risk of this side effect increases as you get older.
The best way to prevent this complication is to never have a shingles infection, which is why vaccination is important.
Who Should Get the Shingles Vaccine?
There are two shingles vaccines available to prevent shingles infections. Since 2017, Shingrix has been the recommended and preferred vaccine used to prevent shingles infections.
Healthy adults aged 50 and older should receive two doses of the Shingrix shingles vaccine in DC. There should be two to six months between doses.
Even adults who have received the other shingles vaccine, have had shingles before, or who aren’t sure they’ve had chickenpox should receive the Shingrix vaccine.
Shingrix has been shown to be 90% effective in preventing shingles in adults who receive two doses. Zostavax, the other shingles vaccine, is still available to those who cannot have the Shingrix vaccine.
Your primary care doctor will know which vaccine is most appropriate for you. In some cases, the shingles vaccine will not be appropriate.
These people include those who have never had chickenpox, are pregnant or breastfeeding, have an active shingles virus, or have had a serious reaction to a previous dose of Shingrix. Still, meeting with your doctor is the best way to develop a plan to avoid shingles infection and its complications.
Shingles Vaccine in DC
In order to be best protected from a shingles infection or its complications, adults should receive the shingles vaccine if possible.
If you’re concerned about your risk of shingles, call (202) 822-6311 or click to schedule an appointment with Dr. Rashbaum to discuss how to receive the shingles vaccine in DC.