What is shingles? It is reactivation of latent herpes zoster virus–meaning you’ve had chicken pox in the past and your body holds onto the virus to then let it reactivate. As we age or as our immune systems becomes weaker, the virus may re-emerge as shingles. This typically results in a localized, blister-looking, painful rash on one side of the body. Before the rash symptoms like
- sensitivity to light,
- localized abnormal skin sensations (feeling like bugs or hot embers are under the skin)
start one to five days before the rash appears.
The US sees one million new cases of herpes zoster yearly. 1/3 of the population is expected to develop shingles during their lifetime.
The vaccine may cause redness, itching, swelling or warmth where the vaccine was administered but overall the vaccine is safe, effective, and well tolerated. The 2012 Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) suggest immunocompetent people (those of us with a good immune system) get the vaccine at 60 years or older, even if they have a history of shingles.
Ask your physician about details of the shingles vaccine.