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Facts about Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

Shingles is a painful skin rash, often with blisters. It is also called Herpes Zoster.

A shingles rash usually appears on one side of the face or body and lasts a week to 10 days. Its main symptom is pain, which can be quite severe. For about 1 person in 5, severe pain can continue even after the rash clears up. This is called post-herpetic neuralgia.

Shingles is caused by the Varicella Zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. Only someone who has had a case of chickenpox – or gotten chickenpox vaccine – can get shingles. The virus stays in your body. It can reappear many years later to cause a case of shingles.

Who should get the shingles vaccine and when:

At least 500,000 people a year in the United States get shingles. A vaccine for shingles was licensed in 2006. A single dose of shingles vaccine is indicated for adults 60 years of age and older.

A person should not get shingles vaccine who:

  • has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin, the antibiotic neomycin, or any other component of shingles vaccine. Tell your doctor if you have any severe allergies.

  • has a weakened immune system because of

    • H.I.V. AIDS or another disease that affects the immune system
    • treatment with drugs that affect the immune system, such as steroids, cancer treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy
    • a history of cancer affecting the bone marrow or lymphatic system, such as leukemia or lymphoma
    • has active, untreated tuberculosis
    • is pregnant, or might be pregnant. Women should not become pregnant until at least three months after getting shingles vaccine.

Someone with a minor illness, such as a cold, may be vaccinated. But anyone who is moderately or severely ill should usually wait until they recover before getting the vaccine. This includes anyone with a temperature of 101 point 3 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

What are the risks from shingles vaccine?

A vaccine, like any medicine, could possibly cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. However, the risk of a vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.

No serious problems have been identified with shingles vaccine. Like all vaccines, shingles vaccine is being closely monitored for unusual or severe problems.

Vaccine Information Statement

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