Shingles—Get Yourself a New Level of Protection

March 31, 2019

It is no surprise that LAFD field members are exposed to a number of different contagious diseases on a daily basis. From the common cold to HIV, our close contact with patients makes us all vulnerable to contracting these same ailments. While a common cold will begin to show sign and symptoms in just a few days, painful ailments like shingles may stay hidden for years or even decades.

About one million people develop shingles every year. Shingles is a viral infection caused by varicella-zoster—the chicken-pox virus. Only those exposed to chicken pox, usually as a child but potentially as an adult, can develop shingles.

The condition is characterized by a painful rash with blisters. These blisters can show up anytime or anywhere on the body, sometimes starting as a single painful blister and then spreading into large clusters. This debilitating condition can last for months, causing not only red painful blisters, but also fatigue, itching, and a form of nerve pain called postherpetic neuralgia that can linger long after the rash is gone. It is not uncommon for people to remark that shingles can cause one to experience the greatest pain they have ever felt.

The early stages of the disease can be easily dismissed for a minor rash or skin irritation but can quickly develop into a life-threatening condition, potentially leading to hospitalization and death. Shingles develop with the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus. It produces a terrible rash that usually happens on one side of the body – typically the face or the torso. However, shingles can have terrible complications that include ophthalmic involvement, postherpetic neuralgia, and bacterial infection. These symptoms can quickly develop into a more complicated case of shingles that can lead to hospitalization and death.

Luckily, there is help. Shingrix is the name of the new vaccine that protects against shingles. It was approved by the FDA in October of last year, and now doctors are recommending that patients as early as age 50 receive it. To get the license, the pharmaceutical companies performed studies involving 16,600 people that proved Shingrix was effective in preventing shingles and that it was better than the original vaccine, Zostavax. Licensed in 2006, Zostavax was recommended for those over 60; however, with Shingrix, the recommendation has been lowered and, so far, has been proven more effective. The vaccine is administered via an intramuscular (IM) injection. Patients need two doses of 0.5 ml. The second dosing should occur between two and six months after the initial first dose is administered. The shot series should not be restarted if more than six months has passed since the first shot.

The risks of having shingles also increases with age. Think about these numbers—1 out of 3 individuals in the United States is going to develop some level of shingles. The virus that causes shingles can remain dormant in the body for decades, being triggered by something as minor as everyday stress, medication, disease, or trauma. Getting vaccinated with Shingrix is very simple. Like the flu vaccination, it can also be administered at local pharmacies. As always, consult your doctor before taking any actions.

By John Hicks

Comments are closed.

Back to Top