Understanding shingles

Who can get it, how to protect yourself

By Crystal Moyer - Traffic/reporter
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Every week, Channel 4 talks with local doctor's offices to find out what's going around, making kids and adults sick.  This past week, UF San Jose Family Practice in Duval County saw cases of shingles.

Many people think Shingles only affect the older crowd, but after speaking to a doctor at UF Health, we learned that the virus doesn't discriminate.

"Shingles can happen to anyone. If you've had the chickenpox virus in the past, then shingles is already [inside] of you," said Dr. Petra Duran-Gehring, a physician and an assistant UF professor.

Which means, if you had the itchy, bumpy virus, you're already at risk for Shingles.

"When it comes out, it ends up being a rash that has little blisters that scab over," explained Duran-Gehring.

The doctor at UF Health adds, shingles is far different from chickenpox because it doesn't it and only affects a portion of your body.

"It's usually pretty painful," said Duran-Gehring. "It causes a burning, a tingling pain that affects the whole area."

She says that burning and tingling sensation can happen days before the rash appears.

"Shingles usually lasts somewhere within a week is when you have the rash, but the symptoms as far as the pain goes, can last for months after that," she said.

So it's really important to get the virus treated as soon as you feel the symptom.  Proper treatment can shorten the course of the pain.

"You have to get that treatment within the first 72 hours and so as soon as you start to develop the rash, immediately see your doctor because we can get you some medications that certainly can help," explained Duran-Gehring.

People with weakened immune systems are vulnerable to developing Shingles.  That weakened immunity can be caused by a number of things including stress, injury or medical treatments.

It's important to note, a person with a Shingles outbreak is contagious and can give chickenpox to anyone who isn't immune to it. The good news is, with vaccination requirements that include the chickenpox vaccine, most kids are protected.

As for a shingles vaccine, the FDA approved one for people age 50 and older, but the CDC actually recommends adults wait until age 60 to get it.

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