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What is shingles?
Shingles (herpes zoster) is a painful skin rash caused by Varicella Zoster, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once you’ve had chickenpox, the virus remains in your body in a dormant or inactive stage. If the virus becomes active again you may get shingles. Age, increased stress, and problems with the immune system may increase your chances of getting shingles.
The shingles rash usually occurs on one side of the body, in a line along a nerve pathway. The rash begins as a tingling in the area then forms a cluster of small red spots that often blister. The rash can be painful. Shingles rashes can last 2-4 weeks, but in some people the nerve pain can last for months. For most people, the pain associated with the rash lessens as it heals. Other symptoms of shingles can include fever, headache, chills and upset stomach. In some people, severe complications include pneumonia, blindness, hearing problems, brain inflammation, and even death.
You cannot catch shingles from another person with shingles; however a person who has never had chicken pox or been vaccinated for chicken pox could get chicken pox from someone with shingles.
Shingles is far more common in people 50 years of age and older. At least 1 million people a year in the United States get shingles. 1 in 3 adults will develop shingles in their lifetime.
What is the shingles vaccine?
The shingles vaccine has been proven as the most effective method to reduce the risk of developing shingles. It can also reduce complications such as long-term pain caused by shingles. There are currently two vaccines available, Shingrix® and Zostavax®.
Who should receive a shingles vaccine?
The CDC recommends all healthy adults 50 years of age and older receive 2 doses of Shingrix® (recombinant zoster vaccine or RZV) 2-6 months apart regardless of a past episode of herpes zoster or receipt of Zostavax® (zoster vaccine live or ZVL).
Adults who previously received Zostavax® should get Shingrix®. They should wait at least 2 months after receiving Zostavax® to receive Shingrix®.
The CDC also continues to recommend adults aged 60 years or older, receive either available vaccine. However, Shingrix® is preferred the preferred choice of zoster vaccine.