Adults age 60 and older should get the shingles vaccine (Zostavax), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you’ve had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles.
Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. The first symptom is often a tingling feeling on the skin, itchiness or a stabbing pain. After several days, a rash appears as a band or patch of raised dots on the side of the trunk or face. It then develops into small, fluid-filled blisters that dry out and crust over within a few days. The rash and pain usually disappear within three to five weeks. However, about one in five people with shingles will suffer long term nerve damage which can cause excruciating and unrelenting pain for months and even years.
One out of three Americans will have shingles at some time in their lives. There are an estimated 1 million cases each year in the United States. For people who live to be 85, the lifetime risk of getting shingles is 50 percent. The risk increases with age.
The shingles vaccine protects your body from reactivation of the chickenpox virus. It isn’t 100 percent effective, but it significantly decreases the risk of getting shingles and reduces the pain and complications for cases which still occur. No serious problems have been identified with shingles vaccine. The most common side effects in people who got the vaccine were redness, soreness, swelling or itching at the shot site, and headache. Those 60 and older should get the vaccine whether you’ve had chickenpox or not.
All Medicare Part D plans cover the shingles vaccine. Depending on your plan, you may or may not need to pay a portion of the total cost for the shingles vaccine. Marinette County Public Health is able to bill Medicare Part D and administer the shingles vaccine.
For questions about vaccines, Medicare coverage, or to schedule an appointment, please call Marinette County Public Health at 715-732-7670.
This information was submitted by Marinette County Public Health.