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Vaccinating against shingles

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Vaccinating against shingles Vaccinating against shingles

Practice nurse Sue Adams first contracted herpes zoster (shingles) in 1976, age 25 years. She has experienced two further episodes of shingles and has occasional flare-ups of symptoms.

'I don't think anyone appreciates how debilitating shingles is, and how depressed one can become,' she explains. 'The pain is the most significant long-term side effect. It still comes and goes - particularly in early spring time.'

Reactivation of virus

Shingles is caused by secondary reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, a member of the human herpes virus group. It lies latent in nerve tissue close to the brain and spinal cord following primary infection, which usually occurs as a child with varicella (chickenpox).

'As a child I had the usual diseases: measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio and chickenpox. With each, I seemed to have a bad reaction. I was in hospital with polio and the chickenpox was quite severe,' says Ms Adams.

An American study of 1,700 patients who had a documented case of shingles between 1996 and 2001 found around 5 per cent were treated for a second episode within an average of eight years.1 For Ms Adams to have suffered three episodes is highly unusual.

When Ms Adams initially contracted shingles, neither preventive vaccination nor anti-viral agents were available.


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