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Varicella-Zoster Virus

Shingles is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. Although Shingles can occur anywhere on the body, they often appear as a single stripe of blisters that wrap around either the left or the right side of the torso.


Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. After someone has had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near the spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivate as Shingles.


Shingles isn't a life-threatening condition but can be very painful. Early treatment can help shorten a shingles infection and lessen the chance of complications.  Postherpetic neuralgia is the most common complication, which causes Shingles pain for a long time after blisters have cleared.


Symptoms of Shingles typically affect only a small section of one side of the body, which may include:

  • Pain, burning, numbness, or tingling

  • Sensitivity to touch

  • A red rash that begins a few days after the pain

  • Fluid-filled blisters that break open and crust over

  • Itching

  • Fever

  • Headache

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Fatigue

The first vaccine for Shingles was Zostavax (zoster vaccine live), licensed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006. This vaccine reduced the risk of developing shingles by 51%. 


The FDA licensed recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV, Shingrix, GlaxoSmithKline) in October 2017. Shingrix does not contain a live virus. It is FDA-approved and recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for people 50 years and older.


Shingrix is administered as a 2-dose series by the intramuscular route. The second dose should be given 2 to 6 months after the first dose.


It is determined to be more than 90% effective against Shingles.

The shingles vaccines are the best way to protect you from getting shingles. The vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of shingles by 50% for Zostavax® II and more than 90% for Shingrix®.


The vaccine can reduce pain for those who still get shingles after being immunized, including the type of pain that lasts after infection.

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