Monthly Archives: October 2019

Herpes Zoster – disease that needs care and attention

Herpes zoster is a virus, which is more commonly known as the shingles virus. Technically, it is the result of the chicken pox virus being reactivated in the human body. In Australia, 1 in 3 people will contract the shingles virus in their lifetime. Australian adults between 70 and 79 years of age are at the highest risk of getting shingles. While shingles is contagious, it is less likely to be transmitted from person to person than the chicken pox.
Symptoms of shingles includes a painful dermatomal rash, blisters, and itching. Some people also experience a fever and fatigue. The rash itself is self-limiting and localized, meaning it usually does not spread to other parts of the body.
Should you experience a localized skin rash or blisters, see your primary care physician immediately. Testing for the herpes zoster virus can include fluorescent antibody testing, PCR, or the Tzanck smear.

The Australian National Immunization Program recommends recommends that adults 60 and over receive the shingles vaccine. The NIP offers the shot for free to Australian citizens over age 70 and it is available in every state and territory in the country. According to global health experts, the shingles vaccine is a safe way of preventing the herpes zoster virus in adults. The shingles vaccine is a simple way of protecting yourself and possibly others from the virus in your community. Unfortunately, the shingles vaccine has been shown to be significantly less effective in individuals over 80.

Herpes zoster Vaccine

According to public health officials, while you can still contract the shingles if vaccinated, it will be a significantly milder case with a shorter duration. If you receive the shingles vaccine, you will also decrease your risk of post herpetic neuralgia. Because the shingles vaccine has only been recommended in Australia since 2016, there is not specific data available on this vaccine yet from the Australian government. Because it is believed that many Australian citizens do not seek medical attention when they experience symptoms of herpes zoster, public health officials think there are many more cases in the country than their current data shows.

Side effects

Side effects of the shingles vaccine are typically mild and can include redness and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, and a headache. Shingles usually emerges in individuals experiencing significant trauma or stress and/or when their immune system is particularly weak. Most people contract shingles only once during their lifetime, although there have been cases of individuals getting shingles multiple times.

If you are diagnosed with shingles, the Australian Department of Health recommends treating the virus with rest, good nutrition, and cool compresses applied directly on to the blisters. Shingles typically resolves itself within a few days to weeks. Antiviral medications can also be used to treat herpes zoster. The typical treatment is a course of the antiviral medication oral acyclovir. In some cases, other antivirals such as famciclovir or valacyclovir are recommended. These medications are the most effective if begun within 72 hours from the onset of the rash.

While recovering from the shingles, be sure to stay well hydrated

Furthermore, consume a diet rich in foods with B vitamins, such as grassfed beef, sweet potatoes, and eggs. If you can, drink green tea, which is a natural antiviral that will help you fight the illness. Also, avoid sugar, caffeine, fried foods and alcohol because they put stress on the body and weaken your overall immune system. Consider taking Vitamin C, B-12, Zinc, and probiotics, since they have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and will help you recover quicker.

To reduce the discomfort with the rash and blisters that accompany the shingles virus, consider taking oatmeal and lavender oil baths

Soaking in this this solution will help to relieve the itching and burning that you may experience.  Applying cool compresses directly to your skin will also help you feel better as you recover. In some cases, if shingles goes untreated, it can cause intense nerve pain, eye problems that can lead to blindness, hearing issues, pneumonia, brain swelling, and death.

People who have not had the chicken pox and/or a shingles vaccination are at greatest risk of contracting the virus

Although shingles is in the same family of viruses as herpes, it is absolutely not an STD and cannot be spread via sexual contact. For more information on herpes zoster, contact the Australian Department of Health at: 1 800 671 811.