PUBLIC HEALTH FACT SHEET
What is Shingles?
Shingles (herpes zoster) is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Stress, trauma, sunlight, immunosuppression and advancing age can cause reactivation of the virus and produce herpes zoster (shingles). Shingles can occur at any age but is more prevalent in the elderly and immunocompromised individuals.
How is it spread?
- Direct contact with fluid-filled blisters.
- Indirect contact with articles soiled by discharge from blisters.
- Persons with shingles may be a source of infection for a week after the appearance of fluid-filled blisters.
How is it treated?
Antiviral medications can shorten the duration of symptoms and pain of zoster in infected persons. Varicella Zoster Immune Globulin may be recommended for immunocompromised contacts.
How can we prevent Shingles?
- A shingles vaccine (Zostavax) is recommended for persons 60 and over.
- Cover affected draining lesions with protective dressings.
- Good hand washing after contact with lesions or dressings.
- Disinfection of articles soiled with discharge from lesions.
SYMPTOMS OF SHINGLES
- Chills, fever, fatigue and gastrointestinal disturbance may be present 3-5 days before rash develops.
- Numbness, itching and severe pain on one side of your body followed by clusters of blister-like lesions.
- A rash occurs in chickenpox-like crops, most often on the chest and waist area and spreads in a line-like pattern.
- The rash changes to fluid filled blisters called vesicles 1-2 days later.
- Vesicles dry and scab about 5 days after onset.
- There is often severe deep pain in the rash area due to inflammation of the nerves.