Shingles vaccination is a must, says microbiologist

February 7, 2013 by Ellen Goldbaum

Terry D. Connell, PhD, knows a lot about the immune system: he's a University at Buffalo professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences who conducts research on new vaccines for diseases, such as tuberculosis.

But his academic credentials are only part of the reason that he strongly believes that everyone over the age of 60 should get a shingles vaccination.   The other is his personal experience with shingles.

"It was the most debilitating and painful thing I'd ever experienced," says Connell, who had shingles about a decade ago. "At times, it was so painful, I couldn't have a bedsheet touch my body."

Connell had symptoms for two months.  He developed a rash on the small of his back and blisters on the bottom and top of one of his feet.  "For a few days, it was too painful to walk," he recalls, noting that once he could walk, he had to use a cane for about two weeks. 

"I was lucky," says Connell. "The pain in some individuals can be so severe that physicians have to prescribe ."

And in some cases, shingles can leave the individual with lifelong pain, caused by a post-shingles syndrome termed "post-herpetic neuralgia." According to the U.S. , at least 13 percent of people over 60 will develop post-herpetic neuralgia after having shingles.

"Shingles are caused by varicella zoster, the same virus that causes ," Connell explains. "Once the virus infects an individual, often as a child, and the primary symptoms of chickenpox subside, the virus 'hides out' in the of the body.  Those hidden viruses can reactivate at any point in life to produce shingles."

Nearly one in three Americans will develop shingles, according to the CDC.  The chance of developing shingles becomes more likely as people age.

"That's because our immune systems weaken as we age," says Connell.  "With the , we cannot keep the 'hidden' virus under control."

Vaccination is recommended for everyone over the age of 60.  According to the CDC, vaccinated individuals can still develop shingles, but the vaccine will likely make the pain less severe and should shorten the length of the outbreak.

Shingles starts as a rash usually on only one side of the body, commonly appearing in the shape of a stripe, often around the abdomen, but it can occur on any part of the body, including on the face, eyes, or mouth.  Before the rash forms, there is often pain and itching or tingling. The disease is often accompanied by fever, headache, chills and upset stomach. 

Shingles can strike out of the blue, Connell says, even if you are perfectly healthy, as he was.

"I had just added weight lifting to my fitness routine and one day after I worked out, my back started hurting," Connell recalls. "I thought, 'Oh, it's from the workout.'"

A few days later, however, the pain became much worse. Connell worried that it might be a herniated disk.

"I could barely get out of bed," he recalls.  "I was sure it was my back. I managed to get an appointment with UB Orthopedics and Sports Medicine. As I was getting out of the car and placed my foot on the pavement, a sharp pain zipped from my foot all the way up my leg.  I stepped out of my shoe and saw the blisters.  Right away, with what I know about infectious disease, I suspected it was shingles."

He realized that he probably needed to see his primary care physician.  But, as he was already at UB, he went to the appointment.  When the sports medicine physician couldn't find anything wrong with his back or muscles, Connell deliberately revealed the blisters on his foot.  "I remember a big smile breaking out on his face as he realized what I had already surmised: Shingles!!"

With Connell's permission, the doctor immediately summoned all the UB medical residents in the clinic so that they could see for themselves how symptoms presenting as one medical issue may turn out to be something entirely different.

"The doctor said shingles is very common," says Connell. "If the residents hadn't known about the blisters, they would still be assuming it was a backache. It turned out to be a great learning opportunity for our medical residents."

Shingles can be transmitted through contact with the lesions that develop. Most people only have one episode of shingles, Connell says. A very small percentage of people, however, will develop shingles one or more times.   

Connell says, "If you've ever had , I highly recommend that you get the shingles vaccine.  I don't want anyone to experience what I experienced!"

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1 / 5 (8) Feb 07, 2013
OT but might help some: I was able to cure a shingles attack in 2 weeks through herbal balms and rest, even though my work schedule was huge (too much stress too long weakens the immune system). The pain was excruciating in the beginning (on my back, so i couldn't sit at my desk) but it subsided after 5 days of the following "treatment":
Three times a day, I gently rubbed the area with a mix of cayenne pepper, eucalyptus globulus essential oil (you can use rosemary but its potential toxicity made me discard it) and olive oil. DO NOT TO USE THIS ON MUCOUS MEMBRANES BECAUSE CAYENNE PEPPER WOULD BURN THEM and YOU HAVE TO CLEAN YOUR HANDS AFTERWARDS FOR THE SAME REASON.
I also applied after each shower a commercial paste containing small quantities of calendula officinalis, phytoloacca decandra, bryonia dioica & benzoe tinctures & boric acid.
I submitted the "shingled" skin area to direct sunlight 10 minutes each day.
Finally, i took echinacea to boost my white blood cells production.
1 / 5 (9) Feb 08, 2013
If you have good nutrition you won't get shingles. If you keep eating crap, like most do, you will probably get shingles. The vaccine probably won't do much to prevent shingles. Like most vaccines, it is just another scam. When you have an 180 IQ like I do you don't fall for these things.
1.6 / 5 (7) Feb 09, 2013
If you have good nutrition you won't get shingles. If you keep eating crap, like most do, you will probably get shingles. The vaccine probably won't do much to prevent shingles. Like most vaccines, it is just another scam. When you have an 180 IQ like I do you don't fall for these things.

When ya keep forgetting what the last claim of an IQ number was, ya are probably lying. Or have Alzheimer's. Or both. Which makes ya a babbling idiot. Can't just pick one IQ score (lie) and stick with it? Or do IQ's go up and down by 10 or more points from week to week?
not rated yet Feb 11, 2013
You get shingles if you have had chicken pox. So wouldn't it be a bit late to have a vaccination for shingles when a pensioner. You would have to have it against getting chicken pox when a young child, as with other vaccinations, then presumably you would be free from shingles later on. Too late for me if that is the case. Already had chicken pox as a child and shingles in middle age. Our doctor said that shingles stays in same nerves and comes back in the same ones. So now know what to look out for if it comes back.

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