Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
Shingles: Symptoms, Risk, and Immunization Facts
Get Recommended Screenings and Immunization
Have you ever heard of Shingles? This is actually Zoster, a virus that is found in people who have had chicken pox. It is unknown why the virus is activated in the body. Zoster causes stripes of painful rashes on the face and body.
Who is at risk of getting shingles?
Anyone who has previously had chicken pox is able to develop shingles. The risk of shingles increases as you get older. One-third of all cases of shingles occur in men and women over the age of 60 years old.
People at greater risk for shingles include:
§ People with medical conditions that result in low immune systems;
§ People who take medication that lower the immune system.
What are the symptoms?
During the first week of the virus becoming active, people often feel pain, itching or tingling where a rash may develop. A rash will develop in a stripe around one side of the face or body and will form blisters that will scab and usually clear-up within a month.
Other symptoms may include:
§ Upset stomach
§ Eye problems leading to a loss of vision.
Who should and should NOT be vaccinated?
Ø You should be vaccinated if:
§ You are over the age of 60.
Ø You should NOT be vaccinated if:
§ You have a severe or life-threatening allergic reaction to any of the vaccine components such as gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin. Tell your doctor about any severe allergies.
§ A person with a low immune system due to:
o HIV/AIDS or any other disease that affects the immune system;
o Treatment with steroids or any other drugs that lower the immune system;
o Treatment with radiation or chemotherapy;
o Cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma;
o Women who may be pregnant.
Should I get vaccinated if I can’t remember if I had chicken pox?
The vaccination is safe to take whether you have had chicken pox or not. It is recommended that anyone over the age of 60 receive the Zoster vaccine. Studies have shown that 99 percent of people over the age of 40 have had chicken pox, even if they do not remember.
Potential side effects
Side effects for the Zoster vaccine are minimal and include redness, soreness, swelling or itching at the shot site, and headache. Some people may experience a chicken pox-like rash around the injection site. As a precaution, this should be covered up until the rash disappears.
Where can I get vaccinated?
If you are over the age of 60 and are interested in getting vaccinated or have questions about the vaccination, contact your VA Primary Care provider/PACT team.
See the below links for more information:
National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention: http://www.prevention.va.gov/MPT/2014/August_2014.asp
The Center of Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/index.html