If you’re of a certain age and generation, you probably remember that lots of children, maybe even you, had chicken pox. It was very common.
Eventually, of course, those chicken pox victims got better, and returned to school and play. Except they really didn’t beat the virus that caused it. That virus decided to camp out in the nerve tissue near their spinal cord and brain.
And therein lies the origins of an adult disease called shingles. It comes from that same virus, the one that had been hiding in your body all those years. It most commonly strikes people over 50 with a painful blend of a rash, and a band of blisters going from your back to part of your chest.
You don’t hear as much about chicken pox these days, because of a vaccine that children can receive. The incidence of the disease has been dropping since 1995 when the vaccine became available.
So where does that leave older people, over 60, whose immune systems may be weakening, making them vulnerable to the “adult” version of chicken pox, shingles?
There’s a vaccine for you too, one that cuts in half your chances of getting shingles, and reducing the complications if you do get it.
The drug is called Zostavax, and it’s injected into your body. It’s been around since 2007, but relatively few people have received it, compared to the 50 million Americans who are age 60 or older.
Remember, shingles is very common. Some 50 percent of Americans will suffer from shingles by the time they’re 80. They’re especially vulnerable from age 60 on.