Older adults can give other older adults chicken pox if they are near them and inhale or imbibe the virus from another person close by who in the near future will be coming down with a case of shingles. You only get shingles if you have had chicken pox. And if you haven't caught chicken pox in your life, you don't have the virus to get shingles when you're a senior citizen.
The best way to prevent shingles is to not get chicken pox in the first place or to get vaccinated against shingles if you've had chicken pox. Or get the chicken pox vaccination. One example, is 83-year-old Barbara Walters case of chicken pox.
She announced on March 4, 2013 on The View that a "well-known actor" had given her chicken pox, Barbara Walters confirmed the name of that actor, who actually has a romantic history with Barbara's fellow co-host Whoopi Goldberg. She named actor Frank Langella, according to reports by the New York Daily News, according to the ET news article, "Barbara reveals actor who gave her chicken pox,"
Walters and Langella kissed at a party a few days before he broke out in shingles
Walters told the media that she shared a New Years hug and kiss with Langella during a party in Miami. Neither the actor or she knew he was soon to break out in painful shingles, which is a red rash that erupts in older adults who have had chickenpox sometime in their lives, usually in childhood. She explained that chicken pox can be transferred by someone with shingles and said this is how she caught the illness.
Note that since Walters never had the chicken pox as a child, she didn't harbor the shingles virus, which is the chicken pox virus that stays in the human body for a lifetime. Langella developed symptoms of shingles a few days later because he already harbored the chicken pox virus in his body. The shingles virus stays in the body for life after someone has had chicken pox at any age. When the immune system wanes in an older adult, a case of shingles can break out. Langella is 75 years old.
Seniors be warned that if you visit other seniors in their home or at senior centers or other social events, you don't know whether you're going to come down with chicken pox or shingles if you hug and kiss another person. Not everyone remembers whether he or she has had chicken pox as a toddler or young child.
If the person has had chicken pox as most people in their 70s and older have had, that person has shingles waiting to erupt at times when the immune system weakens. So unless you're protected by a vaccine against chicken pox or against shingles, you're likely to catch chicken pox from anyone who's going to break out with painful, red shingles within a few days.
Anyone can walk over to you at a party and give you a kiss or a hug, which transmits the chicken pox virus if that person is going to break out in shingles and doesn't yet know it because the symptoms haven't started. You can't predict who among a party of adults has had a vaccination against shingles or against chicken pox. If you've already had chicken pox, a shingles vaccination works, not a vaccination against chicken pox. The virus already is in your body for life.
Interestingly, Barbara Walters didn't catch chicken pox from Langella when she and he lived together until they separated in March 2001
She had first met him on the set of the film 'Eddie' in 1996. Between 1996 and the time they separated in 2001, apparently he didn't have an outbreak of shingles or she wasn't exposed to the virus which can cause chicken pox in someone who hasn't had it. You can catch the virus from a kiss, and also from a hug or just having someone talk to you while preparing food as droplets of saliva too small to be seen spray the food. Or you can catch it from someone just breathing, talking, or laughing near you.
People most likely to never have had chicken pox usually are those who are only children, don't play with children with chicken pox or about to come down with the disease, or were not exposed to the virus in childhood. Check out the March 5, 2013 ET online news article "Barbara reveals actor who gave her chicken pox," or the site, "Barbara Says 'Well-Known' Actor Gave Me Chicken Pox." Frank Langella at one time was married to Whoopie Goldberg, who's also on the View TV program with Barbara Walters.
Chicken pox in childhood can affect your teeth and gums years later
The chicken pox virus may lead to osteonecrosis of the jaw, vision loss. It stays in the body for your lifetime. And when your immune system wanes in old age or sooner, shingles is not the only eruption that can break out. Your mouth, teeth, and gums could be affected. Or you could suffer vision loss due to the chicken pox virus inside you. the chicken pox virus also is a forever virus like herpes. But there are shingles vaccines for those adults who have had chicken pox and chicken pox prevention vaccines.
You may recall as a child catching the itchy red rash, chicken pox. The unsightly infection was caused by the varicella zoster virus and was responsible for nearly 4 million cases each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), until a vaccine introduced in 1995 reduced that number by 83 percent. Yet, if you were among those that suffered from chicken pox, the varicella zoster virus may still be present in your body and could lead to serious (and irreversible) oral health problems such as herpes-type lesions and severe bone damage to the jaws.
Varicella zoster can lie dormant in the body for decades, and if activated can lead to herpes zoster (HZ), more commonly referred to as shingles, according to a study that appeared in General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry's (AGD) clinical, peer-reviewed journal.
Affecting nearly 1 million Americans each year, 50 percent of all new cases of herpes zoster occur in individuals over the age of 60
"Herpes zoster manifests as painful blisters that erupt along the sensory nerves usually on one side of the body or face," according to co-author of the study, M.A. Pogrel, DDS, MD, as reported in the February 18, 2009 news release, Childhood chicken pox could affect oral health years later. "It can be a debilitating disease that can lead to osteonecrosis of the jaw and vision loss in addition to a prolonged painful syndrome." It's better to prevent chicken pox in your small children so the virus doesn't stay with them into old age and cause problems.
Vaccines are available for chicken pox and for shingles for those who already have had chicken pox and usually are older adults. As you age, the immune system weakens, and the sleeping virus starts to do its damage or erupt in shingles episodes of pain and red rashes that can cover large or small portions of the body.
Osteonecrosis is a condition in which bone in the lower or upper jaw becomes exposed
As a result, the jaw bone suffers severe damage and/or death, eventually leading to tooth loss. While the exact reason for tooth loss is unknown, it has been noted that restricted blood flow and inflammation may be a cause. However, AGD spokesperson, Laura Murcko, DMD, notes that, "Your dentist can help detect early signs of osteonecrosis of the jaw by checking for loose teeth, detached gums as well as taking dental x-rays."
Dr. Murcko encourages patients who may have signs of or are suffering from osteonecrosis to visit their dentist regularly and practice good oral hygiene. She recommends that patients consume 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day, add vitamin D to their diet, exercise and weight train, quit smoking and decrease caffeine and alcohol intake.
Symptoms of osteonecrosis:
- Pain, swelling or infection of the gums
- Loosening of teeth
- Poor healing of the gums
- Numbness or the feeling of heaviness in the jaw