As you get older, you’re at increased risk for Shingles.
It doesn’t matter how healthy you feel, because age is a risk factor for Shingles. The immune system can weaken as we age, so viruses, like the one that can cause Shingles, can resurface. There’s no real way to predict if or when it will happen to you. But the facts clearly show, as in the graph below, the number of cases of Shingles increases as people get older.
Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.
Even though chickenpox sores heal, the virus that caused chickenpox, called varicella, remains in your body. This virus lies dormant in your nervous system, and it’s the job of your immune system to suppress it, or keep it from coming back. But age and other factors can weaken the immune system, allowing the varicella virus to resurface as Shingles, a painful rash that’s also called herpes zoster. This is why you can only get Shingles if you’ve had chickenpox.
You cannot get Shingles from someone who has it.
Shingles cannot be passed to another person by sneezing, coughing, or casual contact. The only way to get Shingles is by first having chickenpox. However, if a person has never had chickenpox and has direct contact with the Shingles rash when it is still blistering, he or she can get chickenpox, which can later resurface as Shingles.
Have you ever seen a Shingles rash? Check out the Shingles photo gallery.
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ZOSTAVAX is a vaccine used for adults 50 years of age or older to prevent Shingles (also known as zoster).
Important Safety Information
- ZOSTAVAX does not protect everyone, so some people who get the vaccine may still get Shingles.
- You should not get ZOSTAVAX if you are allergic to any of its ingredients, including gelatin or neomycin, have a weakened immune system, take high doses of steroids, or are pregnant or plan to become pregnant. You should not get ZOSTAVAX to prevent chickenpox.
- Talk to your health care professional if you plan to get ZOSTAVAX (Zoster Vaccine Live) at the same time as PNEUMOVAX®23 (Pneumococcal Vaccine Polyvalent) because it may be better to get these vaccines at least 4 weeks apart.
- Possible side effects include redness, pain, itching, swelling, hard lump, warmth, or bruising at the injection site, as well as headache.
- ZOSTAVAX (Zoster Vaccine Live) contains a weakened chickenpox virus. Tell your health care professional if you will be in close contact with newborn infants, someone who may be pregnant and has not had chickenpox or been vaccinated against chickenpox, or someone who has problems with their immune system. Your health care professional can tell you what situations you may need to avoid.
You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit www.fda.gov/medwatch, or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
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