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Shingles cases on the rise, doctors say

By Jaccii Farris, Reporter, JFarris@wfmz.com
Published On: Dec 25 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 26 2012 04:46:25 PM CST

It's a disease that starts in childhood but comes back to haunt you as an adult.

It's a disease that starts in childhood but comes back to haunt you as an adult. One in three people is at risk for getting shingles.

If you are one of the 99 percent of people who had the chicken pox when you were younger, you have a one in three chance of getting shingles, which involves very painful, burning blisters that can cover the face or body.

Dr. Luther Rhodes, with the Lehigh Valley Health Network, said shingles typically manifests when one's immune system gets weaker, which happens as people age.

The disease usually strikes after 50, but doctors said they are seeing shingles in patients even younger. You can cut your risk by getting a shingles vaccine.

"Your chances of getting shingles are cut in half, and if you do get shingles, your chances of getting chronic pain are reduced two thirds," said Rhodes.

While you need a prescription, getting a shingles vaccine is as easy as going to your local pharmacy, kind of like getting a flu shot.

The FDA recommends anyone over the age of 50 get vaccinated, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 60.

Most insurance companies cover the cost, and local health departments offer reduced cost or free shots for people who can't afford to pay.

If you have already gotten shingles, Rhodes said you should get the vaccine following treatment, and should you come down with them...

"There is an anti-viral medication that markedly reduces the severity of the acute attack if that medication is started within three days of onset," said Rhodes, adding that there are few side effects, but people with immune system issues should talk with their doctor.