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Shingles—Coming At You

October 27, 2017
Plain English Version

Shingles Poster

The U.S. government says there is a good chance you will get shingles.  Shingles is a viral infection. It can result in a painful rash and can leave lasting nerve damage. About one of every three people in the U.S. will get shingles.

The infection may be barely noticeable. But it can be painful and ruin your health. It comes from the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Rash symptoms lead some people to consider shingles to be as minor as a bad sunburn. But the illness can cause strokes, encephalitis, spinal cord damage and loss of vision.

Once a person has had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue. Years later, it may come back as shingles. Doctors diagnose about one million cases in the United States each year.

The U.S. government just approved a new vaccine to prevent shingles. That is big news. A doctor said, “This is what we have been waiting for. Shingles is a common cause of severe problems in the nervous system.”

There is an older vaccine. Its name is Zostavax. The new vaccine is Shingrix. It will not be on the markets for months. Zostavax has been on the market for a decade. Doctors say even if you have taken the Zostavax vaccine, you should get the new Shingrix vaccine when you can.

Experts say Shingrix is almost twice as effective as Zostavax. It is about 98 percent effective in preventing shingles for one year. The Shingrix vaccine has the potential to prevent tens of thousands of cases of shingles.

There is a caution. More people had a bad reaction to Shingrix than to Zostavax. The reactions included fever and muscle aches. They are not dangerous to your health. But they may interfere with your daily activities for a few days.

Talk to someone who has had shingles. They will tell you it is wise to prevent this infection.

Source: The New York Times October 25, 2017

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