Tonawanda News

Features

February 19, 2013

Doctor suggests adult vaccinations for chicken pox and shingles

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — “When you have chicken pox as a kid, it’s a very benign disease and I think you’re lucky if you’ve had it because you recover very well,” Rahman said. “If you have it when you’re old, the attack can be horrible. That’s why they’re trying to immunize everybody. The older you get your body is not able to fight as much.”

Another issue of concern for adults is a possible re-emergence of the chicken pox virus, the varicella zoster virus. After recovering from chicken pox, the virus remains dormant in nerve cells. 

Varicella zoster can express itself again as shingles when the body’s immune system is compromised whether through another acute illness, or a more chronic condition like diabetes or due to old age.

Shingles differs from chicken pox in that the rash is more centralized to the trunk of the body, usually on just one side. Rahman said she often sees the rash along the lower back.

“Because the virus is already there and it is hybernating in your nerve cells, it (expresses itself) superficially along the nerves that are distributed in your body,” Rahman said. 

The pain, she said, can be excruciating and may linger months, even years after the rash has faded.

Rahman said anyone over the age of 65 or who has a compromised immune system should get the shingles vaccine. Shingles can be very contagious during the weeping blistering stage and can be passed on to someone who has never had chicken pox. That person, young or old, would then get the chicken pox. The virus can not be passed on to someone who has already had chicken pox, the CDC says.

Both the chicken pox and shingles vaccine can be obtained through your physician, Rahman said, and even at some pharmacies. Those who wish to go through a pharmacy must have a prescription from their doctor, though.

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