Shingles is a painful, blistering rash that usually appears on one side of your face or body. The rash can be throbbing, burning or stabbing and last up to one month. Some people go on to develop nerve pain (neuralgia) following an episode of shingles. This can last several years and is notoriously difficult to treat. The good news is that you can now protect yourself by having the Shingles vaccine.
Shingles is caused by varicella zoster, which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who has ever had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles as the virus that causes chickenpox stays in the body for the rest of your life.
Around 1 in 3 people who have had chickenpox will go on to develop shingles at some point in their life.
Most Kiwis have had chickenpox. Even those with very mild chickenpox, can still get shingles.
Apart from a painful rash, you might also get fevers, headaches, tiredness and body aches. When you get shingles on your face, there can be a risk of affecting your eyes and some people lose their eye sight due to shingles.
People who have shingles are contagious and should avoid sharing bedding, clothes and towels with others as the virus can spread this way. It’s important to avoid touching the rash and if you do touch it, you must wash your hands thoroughly.
When you’re young, the immune system is usually strong enough to keep the varicella virus under control. As you get older, the immune system gets weaker and your risk of getting shingles increases.
Having had shingles once, does not protect you against getting it again. It’s therefore a good idea to have the vaccine, even if you have had shingles. It’s best to wait one year after you have had shingles until you get the vaccine.
If you are aged 65, you are entitled to a free shingles vaccine from your GP practice. For a limited time, the offer of a free shingles vaccine also applies to people aged 66-80. This is a catch-up programme that will stop within the next two years.
Don’t risk getting this painful rash. Book your vaccine today and be protected.