Around one in three New Zealanders who have had chickenpox will get Shingles in their lifetime. If you’ve had chickenpox, and most New Zealand adults have, you are already carrying the virus that causes Shingles. When you get chickenpox, usually as a child, the virus never leaves your body. It stays dormant in your nervous system but can re-emerge as Shingles at any time.
If you’re 50 or older, your risk of Shingles goes up. When you’re young, your immune system is usually strong enough to keep the virus in check. But as you age, it becomes easier for Shingles to break through your body’s defences, by the age of 85 one in two people will have had Shingles. No one knows what triggers Shingles, but we do know that as we age our ability to fight infection decreases. That is why two-thirds of all cases occur in people older than 50 years of age.
Shingles is a painful rash that develops on one side of the face, body or head. The rash is made up of small blisters that typically scab over after 7-10 days. Before the rash develops, people often have pain, itching or tingling in the area where the rash will develop. The rash most commonly occurs around the back or upper abdomen but can also occur on one side of the face.
Other symptoms of shingles can include:
- Upset stomach
The pain or irritation from shingles will usually go away in three to five weeks. However, if the virus damages a nerve, you may have pain, numbness or tingling for months or even years after the rash is healed. You can’t catch shingles from someone else. However, if you’ve never had chickenpox, or never received the chickenpox vaccine, you can catch chickenpox from close contact with someone who has shingles, because the shingles blisters contain the chickenpox virus.
As the virus is spread through direct contact with fluid from the rash blisters, a person with shingles is infectious when the rash is in the blister phase. Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer infectious.
From 1 April 2018 until 31 March 2020, those aged 65 to 80 inclusive will also be eligible for free shingles immunisation. For those who are not eligible for a FREE vaccination, please contact our clinics for pricing. To make an appointment please phone
Te Hiku Hauora GP Clinic 408 0049
Mamaru Clinic 406 0074
Kaitaia Health Centre 408 1300
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