Once you get chickenpox, you can also suffer from a painful viral infection called shingles later on in your life, says a medical expert.

Shingles is a viral infection of a nerve and the skin around it caused by the herpes zoster virus, which is the same virus that causes the chickenpox infection, said Dr Zainab Ali Asghar, specialist family medicine, HealthHub Clinics, Dubai.

“This virus stays dormant in the body after a chickenpox infection. It can become active again years later and cause shingles, which is a rash with blisters that usually forms a band across the skin and is often very painful. The rash normally only affects one side of the body.”

Elaborating further, Dr Asghar noted that shingles is the re-activation of the latent varicella-zoster virus infection. “Zoster can only occur in someone who has previously had chickenpox (varicella). Shingles has no relation to season and does not occur in epidemics. There is, however, a strong relationship with increasing age.

As per global trends, there is an increase in the number of shingles cases in the UAE due to [an] increase in life expectancy in the country and [an] increase in the prevalence of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and as part of post Covid-19 infection complications.”

Shingles can affect people of all ages but the risk of infection increases as a person gets older. “It is particularly common in adults over 50. It is also more common in people of all ages with conditions that weaken the immune system, including chronic stress.”

Dr Asghar pointed out that there is no cure for shingles. “Antiviral medications started early can help reduce the severity and duration of illness. The most effective prevention against shingles is vaccination.

As per the Dubai Health Authority clinical guidelines for best practice in immunisation, it is recommended that all adults aged 50 or older get vaccinated with the shingles vaccine to prevent [the disease] and its complications.”

Dr Asghar recommended that adults 50 years and older get two doses of the shingles vaccine.

“My advice to people in the UAE is to be aware of this disease and that it can be prevented by vaccinating adults 50 years or older with the shingles vaccine, which is a 2-dose vaccine taken 2 to 6 months apart.

Adults between 18 to 50 years of age with weakened immune systems due to cancer, bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy, and other chronic health conditions are encouraged to seek advice from their family doctor regarding the vaccine to prevent shingles as it is painful and can cause serious complications,” Dr Asghar added.


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