The Herpes Zoster virus causes shingles. The virus creates a painful, itchy rash of blisters that resembles chickenpox in appearance. Shingles is related to chickenpox, but only adults can contract the disease. The rash can range in severity from intense burning to mild soreness.

If you have never had chickenpox, you are not susceptible to Shingles. The virus is most prevalent in adults over the age of sixty who experienced chickenpox during their lifetime. Typically, a case of shingles lasts for three to five weeks.

If you have had recent organ transplant or are immunosuppressed (AIDS, HIV, cancer), Shingles can be deadly. You cannot get Shingles from someone infected with chickenpox, but if you are infected with Shingles, you can pass the Shingles on to anyone with whom you are in contact.

In 2006, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved Zostavax, a vaccine to prevent against a Shingles outbreak. If you are currently infected with Shingles, the vaccine will be useless. It is only administered to adults over the age of sixty who had chickenpox.

Zostavax is given in one dose, injected just under the skin. The vaccine proves to be 50% effective overall, and 64% effective in adults aged 60 and older. The vaccine does contain gelatin and neomycin, so tell your doctor if you are allergic to either ingredient.

Those who received the vaccination and then contracted shingles anyway found the disease lasted only a couple of weeks and the pain and burning were minimal. Side effects are swelling, redness, and pain at the site of the injection.

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