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Vaccines can reduce risk of shingles

  • SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Shingles vaccines are available for those over 60.
    SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Shingles vaccines are available for those over 60.
Published December 03. 2013 05:00PM

You have chills, aches on one side of your body and flu-like symptoms but you don't have the flu.

Then a painful rash appears.

If you had the chickenpox as a child, you could be the one in every three Americans who will experience shingles.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shingles, which is also known as herpes zoster, "is a painful skin rash caused by the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox."

Children, as well as adults who have had chickenpox, are at risk of developing the condition, but most cases are reported in individuals over 60 years old or who have other medical conditions, such as some types of cancer, that affect the immune system.

Symptoms begin with pain, burning, tickling or tingling in some area of the body, usually only on one side and lasts days or even weeks before a rash forms.

Other symptoms will include chills, headaches, stomachaches, diarrhea or swelling or tenderness of the lymph nodes.

Once shingles progresses into the active stage, the CDC reports that a painful rash with blisters appears on one side of the face or some part of the body. The blisters burst and scab over in seven-10 days and usually clear up within two to four weeks.

"Most commonly, the rash occurs in a single stripe around either the left or the right side of the body," the CDC reports. "In other cases, the rash occurs on one side of the face. In rare cases (usually among people with weakened immune systems), the rash may be more widespread and look similar to a chickenpox rash. Shingles can affect the eye and cause loss of vision."

Some people may experience a common complication called postherpetic neuralgia, which is severe pain in the area of the rash after the rash has cleared up. Sometimes the pain is debilitating but usually goes away after a few weeks or months; and in rare cases, years.

Help is available for people over 60 in the form of vaccines, which help reduce the risk of a shingles attack.

In Carbon County, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, in conjunction with the Area Agency on Aging, will be administering shingles vaccines to area seniors through the county senior centers.

Distribution times at all centers will be from 10 a.m. to noon.

Dates for distribution are Dec. 6, at Jim Thorpe-Penn Kidder Senior Center, 995 State Route 903, Jim Thorpe; Dec. 20, Weatherly Senior Center, 335 Third St., Weatherly; Jan. 10, 2014, Panther Valley Senior Center, 90 E. Catawissa St., Nesquehoning; Jan. 17, 2014, Palmerton Senior Center, 501 Delaware Ave., Palmerton; and Feb. 14, 2014, Lehighton Senior Center, 243 S. Eighth St., Lehighton.

The vaccine costs $5; but many will qualify for free vaccines if you are 50 or older, are uninsured or your insurance does not cover it.

Pre-registration is a must.

To register, call the Carbon County branch of the Department of Health at 570-325-6106.

According to the CDC, people who have had a severe or life-threatening allergic reaction to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin; have a weakened immune system because of HIV or AIDS; are undergoing radiation or chemotherapy for cancer treatment; have cancer of the bone marrow or lymphatic system; or are pregnant, should not get the vaccine.

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