What You Need to Know About Shingles

What you need to know about shingles

Shingles is a painful skin rash, often with blisters that usually appear on one side of the face or body and generally lasts from two to four weeks. The main symptom is pain, which can be quite severe. For about one in five individuals, the pain can continue even after the rash clears up. Shingles is caused by the Varicella Zoster virus which is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Only someone who has had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine can get shingles. You can’t catch shingles from another person with shingles. However, someone who has never had chickenpox can get chickenpox from someone with shingles, although this is not very common.

There is now a vaccine available to prevent shingles for people over 60 years of age. It is given as a single dose, subcutaneous (under the skin) injection administered in the outer area of the upper arm. It is a live vaccine, so it should not be given to anyone who is severely ill, running a fever of 101.3 or higher, or to anyone with a weakened immune system, such as those with HIV/AIDS, those undergoing chemotherapy, or those with a history of leukemia or lymphoma.

The shingles vaccine is called Zostavax. It generally runs around $225 for the injection,  but since one dose provides lifetime immunity, this is only a one time expense. Some insurance plans, including Medicare part D plans, do cover the vaccine, some do not. Unlike the flu and pneumonia vaccines, the shingles vaccine is not covered by Medicare part B. Many pharmacies, like ours, offer the vaccine on a walk-in basis, with no prescription needed. We would be glad to check with your insurance plan to see what your out of pocket expense would be for the vaccine if you are interested. Shingles can be a very debilitating condition. Get vaccinated today!