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Shingles

What is shingles?
What are the symptoms of shingles?
How is shingles spread?
How can I keep from getting shingles?
If I’ve been exposed to shingles, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
What treatments are available for shingles? How serious is the disease?
How many cases of shingles have been reported in Northern Kentucky?
Where can I get more information on shingles?

What is shingles?
Shingles is a painful skin rash. After a person has chickenpox, the virus that causes it can remain inactive in the body for many years. Shingles occurs when the virus becomes active again, usually in older adults. When women get chickenpox while pregnant, their babies sometimes develop shingles during infancy. Also, if children get chickenpox before the age of 1, they may develop shingles during childhood. Shingles is a milder illness in children than adults; but it can be a serious illness in those who have weakened immunity.

What are the symptoms of shingles?
Severe pain and numbness along certain nerve pathways, commonly around the midline (trunk) or on the face. One to three days later, clusters of blisters appear in crops, usually on one side of the body and closer together than chickenpox.
 
How is shingles spread?
Shingles is spread by contact with the fluid from the blisters. When people who have not had chickenpox are exposed to shingles virus, they can develop chickenpox. Shingles does not spread from one person to another.

Shingles in contagious from the start of the rash until the rashes have scabbed over.

How can I keep from getting shingles?

If I’ve been exposed to shingles, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
The initial symptoms of shingles can occur years or even decades after recovering from chickenpox.

What treatments are available for shingles? How serious is the disease?Elderly woman gets a vaccine, photo courtesy of the Public Health Image Library
Several medicines, such as Zovirax, Valtrex and Famvir, are available to shorten the duration of the disease and lessen the severity of symptoms. Pain medications may also be prescribed to alleviate the pain associated with shingles.

A vaccination is also available for shingles, but it is not available through the Health Department at this time, though many local doctors' offices and pharmacies carry it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 60 years of age and older receive the vaccine.

Note: Do not give aspirin to a child with shingles. There is a risk of developing Reye syndrome (a serious condition which can cause death) when children take aspirin for viral illnesses.

How many cases of shingles have been reported in Northern Kentucky?
Providers are not required to report cases of shingles to the Health Department, so case numbers are not available.

Where can I get more information on shingles?
For more information online, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or call the Health Department at 859.363.2070

Sources: Northern Kentucky Health Department; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention