The pain & Debility of shingles may be alleviated with a newly available vaccine.

John Hayes, C+L Occupational Health

90% of people raised in the UK are immune to the chickenpox virus (Varicella), as they had it when they were young.  When it is resolved, some virus remains latent in nerve pathways; it can reactivate in a single pathway and cause symptoms known as Shingles, (Herpes Zoster).  Transmission to others at this stage is unlikely. 

The frequency and effect on people increases with age, particularly in people who are stressed, run down or following a traumatic event according to the Shingles Support Society.  The symptoms usually start with pain, which may be severe and burning, itching or tingling sensations.  Usually skin blistering will occur.  It may be successfully treated, if caught within 72 hours according to the Society, suppressing the virus only.

Complications include Post Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN) which is chronic pain still present a month or so after the skin has healed.  Severity varies, but can be debilitating and excruciating and have a considerable impact on quality of life.  This may be especially so in those of working age.  If the area of the eye is affected then immediate referral to the emergency services is required.

A vaccine ("Zostavax") is now available for those aged 50 years or over.  One injection, just under the skin is all that is required.  At present it is not available yet on the NHS and indications that it may be next year, but only for those in the age range of 70 years to 79 years.  For those aged over 50 years of age it is available, in limited quantities from private clinics.

"The availability of the vaccine offers the hope of reducing morbidity caused by herpes zoster and the impact of the disease on patients lives."( Dr J. Langdon, "Vaccination", 20:2012)


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