Shingles – Introduction of new vaccine (herpes zoster vaccination)
Shingles is a condition caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus. If you have had chicken pox, the virus stays in the body until it is reactivated, causing shingles. Shingles is an infection of a nerve and the area of skin supplied by the nerve.
About 1 in 5 people has shingles at some time in their life. It can occur at any age, but it is most common in people over the age of 50. It is uncommon to have shingles more than once, but about 1 in 50 people has shingles two or more times in their life.
Unfortunately the body’s immune system weakens with age and so the chance of developing shingles also increases as people get older and as a result individuals over 50 years of age more frequently suffer from the condition.
What are the symptoms?
The virus usually affects one nerve only, on one side of the body. Symptoms occur in the area of skin that the nerve supplies. The usual symptoms are pain and a rash. The most commonly involved nerves are those supplying the skin on the chest or abdomen. The upper face (including an eye) is also a common site. Shingles usually starts with a headache, fever and tiredness and general feeling of being unwell. It is also very common to feel a burning pain on the body which may become excruciating.
Within days or indeed up to 3 weeks the area of pain will turn into a rash which then changes into fluid filled blisters. When these burst they turn into sores which eventually heal. Most people recover however continue to feel extreme pain in the area of the rash that can remain for months or even years.
Introduction of a new vaccination for Shingles
A Shingles vaccination is now available and it is recommended that anyone over 50 years of age should consider taking the treatment in order to protect themselves from the condition which can be both extremely painful and has the possibility of causing health problems over a sustained period of time.
The vaccination is available on the NHS, although the Department of Health’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended that a universal herpes zoster vaccination programme for adults aged 70 from the 1st day of September after your 70th birthday for the following year. (see NHS choices for eligible criteria) ,71,72, 78 and 79 years. NHS choices website for eligible criteria - http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vaccinations/Pages/who-can-have-the-shingles-vaccine.aspx. There is also an eligibility calculator on Public Health Wales website for shingles http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/888/page/43922
If you would like the vaccination and are not in the age range stated you could have one done privately. The single-dose vaccination is available at a cost of £120.
If you are interested in the vaccine, please speak to a receptionist.