Who is at risk for getting shingles?

Shingles: The Pain You Never Knew You Had

The virus that causes the painful condition, shingles, is a crafty one. Consider this: once you've had chicken pox, you can't get them again. But if you're exposed to it a second time, instead of contracting the pox again the virus finds a hiding place in your body and lies dormant. Sometimes it will stay there, harmless, forever. But if it gets just the right trigger, such as extreme emotional stress or some type of immune deficiency, out it comes ... in all it's burning, blistery glory, this time as shingles.

At last count, the approximate number of shingles cases reported annually was around 500,000. And while that number is pretty high, it's all relative since once you've had chicken pox you can't actually catch shingles from someone else. That means if you're around anyone during their outbreak, you can't catch it from them directly. But since anyone who has had chicken pox is at risk for getting the herpes zoster virus and associated shingles symptoms, you CAN get shingles yourself if you have been re-exposed to the varicella virus.

While shingles is most common in people over 60 years of age, the virus is considered contagious to children as well as adults who have not had chicken pox before. Confusing, yes. But it makes sense if you keep in mind that whether or not you've had chicken pox is the key.

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Susan Sayour