The new shingles vaccine is available
SHINGLES, also called herpes zoster, is a common but lesser known preventable disease which can severely affect older Australians.
The older you are if you get shingles, the higher your risk of being seriously affected.
Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of getting shingles later in life.
About one in three people who have not been immunised against chickenpox or shingles will get shingles at some time.
The Department of Health advises shingles, which is caused by a reactivation of the chickenpox virus, causes a painful localised blistering rash on any part of the skin.
Most elderly people have had chickenpox as children, or as parents of children, before the era of chickenpox vaccine.
Hence they are at risk of reactivation of the virus to form shingles.
It's described as a serious disease because it can cause severe nerve pain that can last for months and even years.
This has a great impact on quality of life.
Shingles in its early stage is contagious and so also has implications for carers.
It can also lead to:
- Serious eye problems, including blindness
- Hearing problems
- Swelling of the brain
- Or worse, death
Shingles immunisation development is relatively recent and is currently recommended for free under the National Immunisation Program for adults aged 70 years to 79 years.
It is also recommended for people aged 60 to 69 years, 80 years and older, and for those aged 50 or over who live in the same household as someone who has a weakened immune system.