health for your
By Rita Colorito YOU MAY HAVE noticed numerous adver- tisements recently for the shingles vaccine. Or you may know someone unlucky, probably an
older relative or friend, who developed the
virus. If you’re wondering whether you should
get vaccinated or if you’re at risk, the simple
answers are yes and yes.
General Hospital in Boston and a preemi-
nent expert on shingles.
symptoms,” below). Less often, the rash
begins on the face or head, and in mild cases
a rash might not appear at all. If you experi-
ence a band of inexplicable pain, itch or
unusual sensation, Oaklander suggests con-
tacting your doctor immediately.
Shingles itself can’t be transmitted from
person to person. However, in rare cases,
shingles can cause chickenpox in young peo-
ple who haven’t had chickenpox or been
immunized for that disease.
How to avoid, or
at least minimize,
this painful virus
common complication of a shingles eruption,
occurring in half or more of untreated people
age 60 and older. Some folks also experience
postherpetic itch at the site of the rash.
Though rare, shingles can lead to encephali-
tis, stroke, spinal cord damage, vision and/or
hearing loss, and even death.
It can take up to a month to fully recover
from shingles. Antiviral medications help
shorten the length and severity of the illness,
and are most effective when started as soon as
shingles is suspected—pain or itching often
precede the rash. Those who develop PHN
may never shake the devastating, and often
“The pain persists in the area that was
affected by the shingles,” explains Oaklander.
“In some people it can go on for years.”
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is a
reactivation of the chickenpox virus in any-
one who was previously infected with chick-
enpox. According to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC), studies show
that more than 99 percent of Americans age
40 and older have had chickenpox, even if
they don’t remember getting it. Nearly one
out of three people in the United States will
develop shingles, with half of the estimated 1
million cases each year occurring in men and
women age 60 and older.
“It takes up latency in the nervous system
and your normal immunity will hold it in
check. As we get older, or in certain people
who are immuno-suppressed, by illness or
medication, that virus is just ready to jump
back out and cause the second illness,”
explains Dr. Anne Louise Oaklander, associate professor of neurology at Massachusetts
Rita Colorito (
frequently on health, wellness and safety issues.
The shingles vaccine, approved by the
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in
2006, reduces the likelihood of getting shingles
by 50 to 70 percent. It also reduces the severity
of shingles-related complications. Having shingles is bad enough itself, says Oaklander, but
the complications are also dreadful.
Chronic nerve pain known as postherpetic neuralgia, or PHN, remains the most
Experts don’t know why some folks get
shingles and others don’t, but the chances of
getting shingles, and developing PHN,
increase with age. CDC recommends that
healthy individuals over age 60, regardless of
their previous exposure to chickenpox,
receive the shingles vaccine. In March 2011,
the FDA approved the shingles vaccine for
adults age 50 and up.
“It’s a simple and safe way for preventing
a potentially devastating neurological illness,”
For more on shingles, visit www.cdc.
& Signs symptoms
The most obvious sign of shingles: a painful or burning rash that begins on the back or
torso on one side of the body (see “Signs &
ops, there is often pain, itching or tingling in the area
where the rash will develop.
This may happen anywhere
from one to five days before
the rash appears.
around either the left or the
right side of the body. In
other cases, the rash occurs
on one side of the face. In
rare cases (usually among
people with weakened
immune systems), the rash
may be more widespread and
look similar to a chickenpox
rash. Shingles can affect the
eyes and cause loss of vision.
The Costco Connection
The shingles vaccine is available at most
Costco pharmacies. Vaccines vary per location;
inquire at your local warehouse pharmacy.
Rash on back of the body
According to the CDC,
shingles usually starts as a
painful rash on one side of
the face or body. The rash
forms blisters that typically
scab over in seven to 10 days
and clears up within two to
Before the rash devel-
OCTOBER 2012 The Costco Connection 69
Rash on front of the body
Most commonly, the rash
occurs in a single stripe
Other symptoms of shingles
Fever Upset stomach
Chills Headache C