Shingles (herpes zoster) is a disease that occurs most commonly in the older population, causing a painful, red, blistery rash that typically presents on the face or side of the body. While the rash usually heals within two to four weeks, it can also cause long-term nerve damage and pain that can last for months or years.
Luckily, shingles has been getting a lot more attention these days with the aging of the Baby Boom generation, and more advertising about a vaccine that can help prevent shingles. Yet, only one in five people in the U.S. over the age of 60 has been vaccinated.
Everyone over 60 should get the shot
Most of the people in this high-risk group had chickenpox as children, before the vaccine to prevent that disease was in use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that most everyone born in the U.S. before 1980 was exposed to chickenpox. And the same virus that causes chicken pox in children can causes the painful outbreak of shingles later in life. That’s because the herpes zoster virus remains dormant in the body, but can reactivate from stress or a weakened immune system.
Half of those who are older than 80 have had shingles
Among those over age 50, one in three is likely to develop the painful rash unless they’re vaccinated. The FDA first approved the vaccine in 2006, and the number of people getting the vaccine increased each year between 2007 and 2013. A recent study revealed, however, that by 2013:
- Less than 2% of 50 to 60 year olds had received the shingles vaccine
- Only 24% of 60 and 64 year olds had received the vaccine
- Only 15% of over 65 year olds had received the vaccine.
The Healthy People 2020 initiative wants to change that
The U.S. government has set a goal of having 30% of people over 60 vaccinated by 2020. And I want to help, too. If you’re 60 or older, I urge you to get the shot, even if you need to come in to see me for another reason altogether. Call for your appointment today: (210) 692-3000 or (210) 370-9995.