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What You Need To Know About Herpes Zoster

  1. Herpes Zoster, also known as the Varicella Zoster virus, is a double-stranded DNA virus that causes chickenpox and shingles. It is not sexually transmitted.
  2. Chickenpox is usually contracted by children who are not vaccinated. Symptoms include a maculopapular rash with fluid-filled blisters that appear on the face and trunk of the body. Once infected, re-infection is very rare due to the development of strong immunity.
  3. The Varicella-zoster virus, after causing chickenpox, retreats into a dormant state in the spinal cord's dorsal root ganglion. Here, it may reactivate to cause shingles, an infection characterized by a maculopapular rash within a specific area of the skin.
  4. Early symptoms of shingles are similar to the common cold, including fever, chills, headache, lethargy, and photophobia. Late symptoms, appearing 3 to 4 days after infection, include itching, burning, or tingling in a specific area of the skin, erythema, rash, fluid-filled blisters, and pain in the affected area.
  5. Risk Factors: Chickenpox is most common in children under the age of 2 and people over 65, particularly those who haven't had the chickenpox vaccine or the disease before and those in close contact with children who might have the disease. Shingles risk is higher in people with compromised immune systems, people older than 50, chronically ill patients, trauma patients, and people with stressful lives/occupations.
  6. Complications of shingles can be widespread due to the virus traveling through nerves. Common complications include post-herpetic neuralgia (severe pain persisting after shingles resolution) and Ramsay Hunt Syndrome (affecting skin, taste, and hearing, including facial paralysis).
  7. Shingles is not curable, but effective treatments are available, including antiviral drugs to suppress the virus, reduce symptom severity, and decrease the likelihood of reactivation, as well as supportive medication to alleviate associated symptoms.
  8. There is a vaccine for shingles, Shingrix, which is a recombinant zoster vaccine that provides strong immunity against the virus and its complications. It is recommended for people above the age of 50 and immunocompromised individuals.


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