Highly Contagious, but Highly Preventable

February marks Shingles Awareness Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 3 people will contract the virus also known as herpes zoster.

People older than 50 years old are at a higher risk for the painful, blistering virus, but anyone who has had chicken pox can get shingles. It’s a painful rash that usually develops on just one side of the body. Todd Shaffer, M.D., a Family Medicine Practitioner at TMC Lakewood says it’s a fairly common virus. Dr. Shaffer says while not all patients will have a rash, most have a strip of intense pain they describe as burning, or pins and needles pain. He says it’s important that patients get into their doctor’s office as quickly as possible. “If a patient is diagnosed with shingles and starts an anti-viral medication within the first 72-hours of showing symptoms, that medication can shorten the course and severity of the virus and decrease the odds of developing a painful, long-lasting neurological condition.”

Patients who’ve had shingles once are more likely to have it again.

The good news, Dr. Shaffer says, is that there’s a very effective vaccine available. Doctors recommend anyone 50 years old or older get the vaccine. To schedule your vaccination, talk to your doctor. To make an appointment with a primary care physician, call 816-404-CARE (2273).

To hear Dr. Shaffer’s full interview, click here.

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