Shingles (Herpes Zoster): What to Know About The Infectious Disease

Shingles (Herpes Zoster): What to Know About The Infectious Disease

Herpes Zoster

When you hear that word, what do you think? Do you think of a sexually transmitted disease and release a sigh of relief because you think you’re safe from those?  Well, you are wrong to not to worry.  Herpes Zoster is not a sexually transmitted disease, but it is shingles.

Herpes zoster is highly contagious and very common.  One third of the adult population will get herpes zoster, and the chances of getting it increases when a person passes the age of 60. Herpes Zoster is from the same virus of the chicken pox that almost all of us get as children.  If you got the chicken pox as a child, then your chances of getting herpes zoster are significantly higher.  This virus that they both originate from is called Varicella zoster.  While chicken pox releases all over bumps that are itchy, the herpes zoster is a rash that is highly painful and usually on one side of the body.  Herpes stands for creeping and zoster stands for girdle.

Symptoms of herpes zoster:

• Painful rashes
• Tingling sensation under the skin
• Red blisters that bubble up on the skin
• Blisters are fluid filled blisters, will dry out and crust over within 7-10 days
• Fever, headaches, and chills
• Itchy red dots
• Stomach upset

As stated above, herpes zoster causes a rash that is highly painful then create red blisters that bubble up on the skin. That’s a symptom that you should really look for. These blisters are fluid filled and will dry out and crust over within 7-10 days of having herpes zoster.  The other early signs for herpes zoster are fever, headaches, and chills may occur. Red dots on your skin that are itchy, but not yet filled with fluid. Also, some minor pain may be occurring in these areas with tingling under the skin. Finally, an upset stomach can occur during the early stages of herpes zoster.


“Wake Up”:
After chicken pox gets into the system the virus moves into the nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain.  This is where it stays.  After this, the virus seems to ‘wake up’ in some individuals and this causes herpes zoster to occur.  Doctors aren’t sure why herpes zoster wakes up in some people, but there are some risk factors that may be important to know.  You are more likely to get singles if you are age 50 or older, under a lot of stress, have cancer, take long term steroids, or have system injury.  It is important to also remember that many individuals who get herpes zoster have none of these risk factors!

Herpes Zoster has very serious complications that can occur long after the rash is gone.  If the virus affects certain nerve there can be brain inflammation.  If the rash is around the eyes, you can get eye and vision problems.  Also, one in five people who get herpes zoster will get Postherpetic neuralgia.  This is a pain that occurs around the area where the herpes zoster rash was. It is highly contagious so important to get treatment as soon as you realize that you are infected.  Your primary care physician may prescribe you antiviral drugs that may help you heal faster and are the most effective if taken within 3 days of the rash showing up.  You can also be prescribed other things such as cooling pads and anxiety medicine to help during your herpes zoster outbreak.

As reported by, one in three people in Australia will get herpes zoster in their lifetime.  There are about 20,000 people age 70-79 that are diagnosed every year with this virus!  It’s important to know all the signs and symptoms and get treated as soon as possible.   There is also a vaccination that you can get to help protect you from herpes zoster.  This vaccine is highly recommended for people over the age of 60.  The cost of the vaccine is pretty pricey, so you will need to check your insurance providers and make sure you are covered, or talk to your primary care physician for other methods of payment.

“Don’t let herpes zoster create havoc on your life.  Stay watch on your body and quickly go to the doctor if you are having any symptoms listed above”

Peter Williams

About the author

Peter Williams administrator

Medical practitioner from Sydney, NSW.

Leave a Reply