About Shingles

What is shingles?

Shingles is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus which remains latent in the body after the initial infection. The first contact with the Varicella – Zoster Virus (VZV) is manifested as Chickenpox and reactivation of the virus is manifested as Shingles. Shingles usually affects a nerve root and can be very painful and disfiguring if it involves the face or forehead.

How is Shingles transmitted?

Shingles can be reactivated due to low immune system, stress, illness, underlying cancer or immune compromise (in transplant patients, chemotherapy patients, HIV infection, patients on steroids or biologic agents). In older adults, the healing process is prolonged and often associated with a complication of post-herpetic neuralgia which is a form of ‘nerve pain’ lasting weeks and months.

Why should I take the Shingles vaccination?

Shingles vaccination is indicated for:

  • Adults ≥ 50 years old
  • Immunocompromised individuals ≥18 years old
  • Patients in preparation for chemotherapy or immunosuppressive treatment /transplants
  • Those who previously received Zostavax
  • Points to Note:

    Laboratory diagnostic tests are not perfect and are not 100% accurate

    • We do not have a test for every disease or virus but most of those pathogens that are of public health importance or have long term implications on your health can be tested
    • No one single test can be used with absolute certainty to diagnose a disease. Often, we depend on a combination of tests to make a diagnosis
    • Sometimes, we have to resort to trial treatment or empiric treatment if investigative tests are inconclusive. If the patient makes a therapeutic response and feels better, we have achieved our goal
    • In PUO, we are looking for treatable causes and to rule out sinister causes eg. malignancies so that we do not miss opportunities for early treatment or intervention

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