Herpes-zoster (Shingles) is a painful blistering rash caused by reactivation of the varicella zoster virus – the same virus that causes chickenpox.
Once you have had chickenpox, the virus can stay in your nervous system for many years. For reasons that are not fully understood, the virus may become active again and give you shingles. Shingles can spread through direct contact with an uncovered rash. 1 in 3 people will develop shingles in their lifetime. As a person gets older, the risk of getting shingles and post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) increases.
Sometimes pain in the affected region can be severe and prolonged. When it lasts more than 3 months it is called PHN. Other less common complications may include scarring, skin infections, loss of vision or hearing, pneumonia, or neurological complications.
Shingles is a vaccine preventable disease and immunisation against shingles is achieved by a dose of the Zostavax® vaccine which can be given to adults 50 years and over.
The shingles vaccine is provided free for people aged 70 years under the National Immunisation Program. There is also a five year catch-up program for people aged 71 – 79 years until 31 October 2021. To receive the immunisation visit your local doctor or vaccination provider. It is important to note that although the vaccine is provided at no cost, a consultation fee may apply.
People who are not eligible to receive the free vaccine are able to purchase the vaccine on the private market.