Are you thankful you have dodged the pain and long-term effects of shingles? Our team at the Infectious Diseases Tropical Medicine and Travel Clinic wants you to know that you don’t have to sit back and hope anymore.
Shingrix, a new vaccine approved in October 2017, has been shown to be effective in preventing this disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the only way to protect against the shingles virus is to get the vaccine and has issued recommendations for who should get it.
Before we discuss the vaccine, here are a few things you need to know about shingles.
What is shingles?
Shingles is a viral infection that triggers a painful rash. It’s caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox.
After you have chickenpox, the virus can stay in nerve tissue near your brain or spinal cord for years without causing any health problems. During times of stress, the virus may reactivate, leaving you with a painful line of blisters known as shingles.
The virus can cause these blisters to erupt anywhere on your body, but most commonly happen as a single stripe of blisters that wraps around the left or right side of the trunk of your body.
When you have shingles, you may experience:
- Pain, burning, numbness, or tingling
- Sensitivity to touch
- Red rash that appears a few days after pain
- Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over
- Sensitivity to light
Pain and blisters are the hallmark signs of shingles. Typically, the virus lasts a week or two, leaving behind dry, crusty scabs where the blisters have healed. But for a small number of people, shingles does not end this quickly.
After shingles, you may be left with deep nerve pain, known as postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN. The shingles virus damages the nerve fibers, causing them to send mixed messages to the brain that is interpreted as pain, even after the blisters are gone.
PHN can last months or even years and has no treatment or cure. This condition occurs most commonly in people over the age of 50.
What is Shingrix?
Shingrix is a new vaccine made to protect you against the shingles virus. It is the second vaccine ever to be created for shingles and has proved to be more effective in preventing the illness for an extended period.
Studies show that Shingrix is more than 85% effective for at least the first four years after you get vaccinated. Two doses of Shingrix is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles and complications like postherpetic neuralgia.
Who should get Shingrix?
Herpes-zoster, or shingles, is a widespread virus. The FDA approved the first vaccine for shingles, called Zostavax, in 2006. For people ages of 50-59, Zostavax offered 70% protection from the virus. Protection dropped to 18% for people over the age of 80. The lack of protection left many older people at risk of getting shingles.
Almost all adults over the age of 40 carry the virus in their body. The older you get, the more likely it is that the virus will reactivate, causing shingles. Anyone over age should get the Shingrix vaccine. You should get the vaccine even if you:
- Had shingles in the past
- Received Zostavax
- Are not sure if you had chickenpox
As you age, your body is less able to fight off common viruses. This vaccine increases your ability to prevent the shingles virus from becoming reactivated. If you do get shingles, Shingrix is proven to lessen the severity of long-term side effects.
How the Shingrix vaccine is administered
Shingrix is an injection or shot that we give you in your upper arm. It is a non-living vaccine made up of a part of the virus. Dr. Sarfraz A. Choudhary or another member of our team give you two doses of the vaccine two to six months apart.
Make your appointment today
Are you ready to get your vaccine? Call our office or book online today to make an appointment with Dr. Choudhary. We want to help you start living your best life today.