What's Going Around: shingles - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

What's Going Around: shingles

Dr. Tim Haman, infectious disease physician at CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital, says shingles is What's Going Around this week. (Source: KPLC) Dr. Tim Haman, infectious disease physician at CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital, says shingles is What's Going Around this week. (Source: KPLC)
LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) -

If you have ever had chickenpox, you are at risk of developing a very painful rash from the reactivation of that virus, even decades after it first made you sick.

Dr. Tim Haman, CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital infectious physician, says he has seen several cases of shingles over the past month.

The varicella-zoster virus is what causes chickenpox and shingles.

"Once you have chickenpox, the virus lies dormant in your nerves, usually in your spine for an indefinite amount of time," said Dr. Haman, "and then at some point in your life can reactivate."

That reactivation causes a very painful rash and blisters, but before that, you might have more subtle symptoms.

"Most people will develop some tingling or burning in what's called a dermatomal area, or an area that's typically supplied by one nerve, so it's typically a strip of skin rather than kind of a widespread infection," said Dr. Haman.

Shingles can only spread to a person who has never had chickenpox.  Dr. Haman says the virus can spread through direct contact with fluid from the rash blisters caused by shingles.

A one-time shingles vaccine is recommended to keep people most at risk protected. 

"Anybody above 60 is more susceptible, anybody that's got any kind of condition that weakens their immune system, so people that are on chemotherapy, people that are on drugs for things like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, people that are on chronic steroids, pregnant women," said Dr. Haman.

If you suspect you have shingles, seek medical treatment quickly.

"The earlier it's identified, the earlier it can be treated with antivirals and medicines to try and prevent the actual outbreak and then prevent some of the long-term side effects," said Dr. Haman.  "You can actually get long-term neuropathic pain even after the rash resolves."

Medications are taken for seven to ten days, depending on the severity of the condition.

Currently, there is only one shingles vaccine on the market.  It is for people 60 and older and with certain immuno-compromised conditions.

Within the next year, another shingles vaccine will be released, this time with a dead virus versus the current live one.  That will make the most vulnerable population better candidates for the vaccine.

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