Herpes Zoster or Shingles, is caused by the chickenpox virus that remains in the nerve roots of all people who have had chickenpox and can become active in your body again years later and cause illness that is associated with Herpes Zoster.
Herpes Zoster is more common after the age of 50 and the risk increases with age. Herpes Zoster causes numbness, itching or severe pain followed by clusters of blister-like lesions in a strip-like pattern, typically on one side of your body. The pain can persist for weeks, months or even years after the rash heals and is then known as post-herpetic neuralgia.
People with herpes zoster are considered contagious to persons who have never had chickenpox. People who have never had chickenpox can catch chickenpox if they have close contact with a person who has herpes zoster or shingles. However, you can not catch herpes zoster or shingles itself from someone else. Herpes Zoster or Shingles is directly caused by the chickenpox virus which has been dormant (non active) inside your body ever since you had chickenpox. So, in short you experience herpes zoster or shingles from your own chickenpox virus, not from someone else.
If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms associated with herpes zoster or shingles contact your health care provider as soon as possible to discuss treatment options that may include antiviral medications. These medications have shown to be most effective if given as soon as possible after rash begins.
How effective is the chickenpox vaccine? A study conducted among children with leukemia determined that after receiving the vaccine these children were much less likely to develop shingles than children who had prior natural chickenpox. Information that’s been made publicly available on studies of healthy children and adults suggest that herpes zoster or shingles is less common in vaccinated healthy persons compared with persons who have experienced natural chickenpox.
Currently there is no vaccine available to prevent or modify herpes zoster or shingles. A study is currently underway with a new formulation of the chickenpox vaccine to determine whether vaccination of persons older than 55 years of age will reduce the frequency and/or severity of shingles in adults. Results from this study should be available within the next few years.