By Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

I apologize for the long silence. What follows is both my explanation and information you may find important.

Shingles (herpes zoster) is related to chicken pox (varicella virus).  If you had chicken pox, it’s likely that some of the virus is lurking along your spinal cord.  Shingles happens when that virus becomes active and attacks one of your spinal nerves. The pain is indescribable. The illness lasts 4-6 weeks. The good news is it’s not contagious – except that someone with an active case of shingles shouldn’t get near a baby who hasn’t had the chicken pox vaccine .

If you’re 60 or over, ask your doctor about the shingles vaccine. It’s been available only for a year or two, and many people don’t know about it. It’s expensive, but you’ll spend as much or more on meds to control the illness, and more than that in lost work time, if you get shingles. The older you are, the worse it is.

Conventional wisdom is that you can’t get the vaccine if you’re under sixty, but if you’re in your fifties you should know this:  It’s from a paper on shingles in the June 15 edition of the journal American Family

“The FDA recently approved the [shingles] vaccine for healthy patients between 50 and 59 years of age, and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is expected to vote on recommending the vaccine for this population in late 2011.”

The journal article says everyone should get the vaccine, whether or not they had chicken pox. I know a man who had one chicken pock (?) while his siblings were covered with them. If his mother hadn’t noticed the one, he’d think he never had chicken pox and is therefore exempt from shingles.

The vaccine lasts for life.

I was going to ask for it when I had my annual physical in October.

I shouldn’t have waited.

You can get shingles more than once.  Now I have to wait until next July to get the shot.

Don’t you wait.  Act now.

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One Response to “Shingles”

  1. Being in that fifty-something range, I just want to say thanks for the heads up.

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