Herpes zoster, also known as shingles, is characterized by the painful rash that develops from the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the virus that causes chickenpox.1 Before the rash appears, people can often have pain, itching, or tingling in the area where it will develop.2 The rash develops into clusters of blisters over 3 to 5 days, then dries and scabs over.1 While the blisters are active, they are infectious through direct contact and can cause varicella (chickenpox) in people who have never had chickenpox or have never received the chickenpox vaccine. Once the blisters scab over they are no longer infectious.3 The rash usually heals in 2 to 4 weeks.1 Some people may go on to experience pain in the area that was affected by the shingles rash even after the rash clears up. This is known as post herpetic neuralgia (PHN). In a population-based study, PHN affected 13% of patients with herpes zoster aged 60-79 years and 20% of patients with herpes zoster aged ≥80 years.4 PHN can last for months or years after the rash resolves.1
- Painful rash
- Sensitivity to bright light
Please refer to the CDC Immunization Schedule for the complete shingles recommendation.
Facts About Shingles
Approximately 99.5% of adults 50 years of age and older are infected with the varicella zoster virus. As a result, almost all older adults in the US are at risk for shingles.1,6 Most people who get shingles will have it only once. However, you can get the disease more than once. The risk of shingles and complications, such as PHN, increases sharply in adults 50 years of age and older.1
Many patients may not know that there are vaccines recommended for them to help protect against certain diseases. You can help educate patients about these vaccine-preventable diseases, and explain why it’s important for them to be up to date on their vaccinations.
References: 1. Shingles (herpes zoster) clinical overview. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed October 5, 2020. Accessed January 18, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/hcp/clinical-overview.html. 2. Shingles (herpes zoster) signs & symptoms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed July 1, 2019. Accessed January 21, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/symptoms.html 3. Shingles (herpes zoster) transmission. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed July 1, 2019. Accessed January 24, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/transmission.html 4. Yawn BP, Saddier P, Wollan PC, et al. A population-based study of the incidence and complication rates of herpes zoster before zoster vaccine introduction. Mayo Clin Proc. 2007;82(11):1341-1349. 5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended adult immunization schedule for ages 19 years or older, United States, 2022. Reviewed February 17, 2022. Accessed February 18, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/downloads/adult/adult-combined-schedule.pdf 6. Kilgore PE, Kruszon-Moran D, Seward JF, et al. Varicella in Americans from NHANES III: implications for control through routine immunization. J Med Virol. 2003;70(suppl 1):S111-S118. doi:10.1002/jmv.10364. 7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hall E, Wodi AP, Hamborsky J, et al, eds. Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases. 14th ed. Public Health Foundation; 2021. Reviewed August 18, 2021. Accessed February 1, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/index.html