OSKALOOSA — Herpes Zoster, otherwise known as the shingles virus, affects nearly one out of every three people in the United States. Mahaska Health Partnership wants to educate the public on the shingles virus and how to prevent and treat it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), half of Americans who live until age 85 will develop shingles at some point in their lives. The only way to reduce the risk of developing shingles is to get vaccinated. A vaccine is available for individuals 60 years of age and older.
Individuals with medical conditions that affect their immune systems, such as leukemia or lymphoma, or are on immunosuppressive drugs such as steroids, are at increased risk for shingles.
“Shingles is a very common ailment seen in patients, especially those over 60 years of age,” explained MHP Family Nurse Practitioner Jill Konfrst. “Anyone who had chickenpox in their lifetime is susceptible to the shingles virus later in life.”
Shingles is a virus, so antibiotics are unable to treat the disease. However, some antiviral medications are available to shorten the length and severity of the illness. These medications must be started as soon as possible to generate the best results. Pain medication, oatmeal baths and calamine lotion may also help lessen some of the itching associated with shingles.
“If you develop an itchy, red rash somewhere on your body, contact your primary care provider immediately,” Konfrst urged. “Shingles can lead to multiple complications, but if treated, usually goes away in a couple of weeks."