Are You a Healthy Adult ≥ 50 Years of Age? Or Maybe You’re < 50 but Immunocompromised? It’s Time to Think About Shingles.
Shingles can be a pain. Literally. Shingles, also known as the herpes zoster virus, is a blister-type rash along a nerve pathway that causes pain and paresthesia (sensation of pricking or tingling). It often appears on the body or face and may last 2-4 weeks. Other symptoms can include fever, headache, nausea, and chills. Pain is a common symptom and can be severe. The pain is described as burning, sharp, or throbbing. It can last for months to years after the rash has cleared. This is called post-herpetic neuralgia. This is a serious complication of shingles and can affect basic daily activities such as walking and sleeping. Other complications from shingles can include weakness, facial or muscle paralysis, loss of hearing or vision problems.
How is Shingles Contracted?
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for shingles as the virus remains dormant in the central nervous system and can reactivate causing shingles. Because chickenpox was once a common disease, it can be assumed that anyone ≥50 years of age has had chickenpox, even if you don’t ever remember being sick with it.
The risk of developing shingles increases as the immune system naturally weakens with age. It is more common in people over 50 years of age and those with a weakened immune system. Immunocompromised individuals are at greater risk of shingles and associated complications than healthy individuals. It is estimated that 1 in 3 people will get shingles in their lifetime. It is possible to get shingles more than once.
Is There Treatment for Shingles?
If diagnosed promptly, antiviral medication can be prescribed to treat shingles or to decrease the severity and duration. If you think you might have shingles it is important to contact your healthcare provider immediately, even if you have previously been vaccinated.
Vaccines to Prevent Shingles
There are two vaccines available in Canada to prevent shingles. Zostavax has been available since 2008 and Shingrix has been available since October 2017. Shingrix is more effective and is the preferred shingles vaccine recommended by Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunizations.
If you have previously received Zostavax, it is recommended to receive the Shingrix vaccine at least one year after Zostavax.
Shingrix Vaccine Facts
+ It is recommended for all adults ≥ 50 years of age.
+ It can be given to adults ≥ 18 years of age taking immune compromising medications, or to those with immune compromising health conditions.
+ It requires two injections given between 2-6 months apart.
+ It is more than 90% effective at preventing shingles in in all age groups from 50 to over 80 years of age.
+ The need for a booster dose following the primary vaccine schedule has not been established. Studies have demonstrated protection for at least 7 years after the primary series.
+ If you have had an episode of shingles it is recommended to wait until the acute stage of the illness has fully resolved before receiving the Shingrix vaccine.
+ Side effects of the vaccine include soreness or redness to the injection site, fatigue, headache, stomach complaints, fever, or shivering.
To book an appointment for the Shingrix vaccine call 604-251-1975 or email us at email@example.com.