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Kraig W. Jacobson, M.D.

Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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Should you get a shingles shot?

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If you have had the chickenpox or received your childhood immunizations prior to 1995, when the chickenpox vaccine was licensed in the United States, you are at risk of developing shingles. It is a painful condition with potentially long-lasting consequences.

What is shingles? 
Shingles is a rash made up of small fluid-filled blisters that usually appear on one side of the torso or face. It is caused by the herpes-zoster virus, which lingers dormant in the body for life after having had chickenpox. Any suppression of the immune system or other factors, such as stress, can cause reactivation of the virus decades later. Since shingles affects the body's sensory nerves, it is extremely painful, and is the leading cause of chronic nerve pain in America.

Is shingles contagious?
The blister fluid contains the herpes zoster virus, which can cause chickenpox in an unimmunized infant, but will not cause shingles in another adult.  

How often does shingles occur?
There are nearly one million cases of shingles reported in America each year, half of these by individuals over age 50. One in three people will develop shingles during their lifetime. 

Why get vaccinated?
By getting the shingles vaccine, Zostavax®, you reduce your chance of getting shingles by 50 percent. The vaccine also reduces the risk of developing severe long-term nerve pain by approximately 67 percent, as well as lessening the severity and duration of shingles. You only need this vaccination once.

What are the risks of vaccination?
The most common reaction is a local pain and swelling at the injection site. There can also be systemic symptoms of fever, chills and body aches. This live-virus vaccine can also pose a risk for those with a compromised immune system, cancer or a rheumatologic disease. Although a prescription is not needed, please consult your Oak Street Medical physician to decide if this vaccine is right for you.

Tagged in: Shingles Vaccines

An energetic problem solver, Dr. Kraig Jacobson has spent his career treating patients and teaching about the complexities of allergy, asthma and immunology. He has practiced medicine in Eugene since 1979. The bigger the challenge, the more he enjoys his work.