Zostavax – the Shingles vaccine

Vaccine developed by Merck Frosst in 2006 to treat postherpetic neuralgia. The vaccine, Zostavax has been clinically shown to reduce the incidence of shingles in individuals over 60 years of age by 51%.

Shingles is caused by subsequent symptomatic replications of the Herpes Zoster virus. The Herpes Zoster virus causes what is commonly refered to as chickenpox on its primary infection and symptomatic replicative outbreak.

Why get the vaccine?

Subsequent replications of the Herpes zoster virus manifest in painful blisters and finally crust over in lesions known as shingles.

Between symptomatic phases the herpes zoster virus remains dormant or latent in nerve roots. When the virus once again becomes active it affects the nerve causing symptoms of paresthesia, or altered nerve sensation the length of the nerve to the skin. The skin lesions, shingles are painful in themselves, however the paresthesia  may cause minor itching or may be severe, causing burning or nerve pain known as neuralgia.

The primary purpose of this vaccine is to manage the severe symptoms of nerve pain or neuralgia which may occur in some individuals with shingles. Studies have shown that Zostavax reduces the incidence of severe and long-lasting zoster-associated pain by 73 per cent in comparison to non-vaccinated individuals.

Medisys. (2011). New Shingles Vaccine – Is It Right for You? Retrieved February 24th from http://www.medisys.ca/travel-health/vaccinations/zostavax-shingles-vaccine.htm

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