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The disease that keeps on giving

Mar 18, 2015 02:00PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds

Whether you actually had chickenpox as a kid or benefited from the use of the chickenpox vaccine, you are still at risk for the second wave assault of the varicella-zoster virus—a painful, blistering rash called shingles.

“Although shingles is much less contagious and itchy than chickenpox, it tends to cause more pain,” says board-certified dermatologist Daniela Kroshinsky, assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School. “In addition, although the shingles rash usually clears in a few weeks, some people can experience pain, numbness, itching, and tingling that can last months or even years.”

Fifty percent of all Americans will have shingles before they are 80 years old; one million suffering at any given time. Those over the age of 50, and those with compromised immune systems (from illnesses like cancer and HIV) are most at risk. Receiving the shingles vaccine reduces the risk in older people by half.

--Sarah Hagerty
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