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.
Vaccinations have gotten a bad rap in recent years. But what the national conversation often doesn’t touch on is the benefit that vaccinations offer us as individuals and a nation. August is National Immunization Awareness Month, so this is a good time to review.
(CNN) – Angelina Jolie delivered a special message to fans in a video posted to YouTube: She’s got chickenpox. The illness has left her unable to attend the premiere for her newly directed movie “Unbroken.” In the video, Jolie wears a white tank top, and pink spots speckle her face, neck and upper body. “I just wanted to be clear and honest about why I will be missing the ‘Unbroken’ events in the next few days, which is that I found out last night that I have chickenpox. So, I will be home itching and missing everyone. And I can’t believe it cause this film means so much to me,” she says in the video published to Universal Studios Entertainment’s verified Facebook page on Friday. “I just can’t believe it!” She laughs in irony on the video. She lifts her hands in a helpless gesture and waves to the camera.
Before the advent of vaccinations, hundreds of thousands of Americans each year came down with diphtheria, measles, mumps, and pertussis, and hundreds or thousands more developed polio, rubella, and tetanus. Now most of these diseases have been nearly or completely eliminated. Worldwide, vaccinations against just nine diseases may have prevented roughly 3 million deaths.
Disease-preventing shots aren’t just for children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends certain vaccinations for adults. Pregnant women, people with particular medical conditions ranging from HIV to diabetes and liver disease, people who work as health-care providers, and those who live or work around small children may need to follow different schedules or avoid particular vaccinations.
But here’s a general timetable to keep in mind:
- Hepatitis A and B: Get vaccinated if your behaviors put you at particular risk of the disease or you simply want to be protected from it.
- Human papillomavirus: Adult women up to age 26 may benefit from this vaccination, which protects against the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer, if they haven’t received it already.
- Influenza: Get one dose annually throughout adulthood.
- Measles, mumps, rubella: You need at least one dose of MMR if you were born in 1957 or later. Some people need a second dose; talk to your doctor.
- Pneumococcal disease (such as pneumonia): Adults who smoke or have certain diseases need one to two doses before the age of 65, and one at 65 if you have never been vaccinated.
- Tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis: Have a one-time dose of the Tdap vaccination if you’re an adult under 65 and you haven’t received it previously or don’t know if you’ve had it. Then get the Td booster every 10 years.
- Varicella: If you haven’t had chickenpox or you only received one dose of vaccination, talk to your doctor.
- Zoster: Adults 60 and older should receive a single dose of this vaccine to protect against shingles.
For more information on vaccinations, visit the Centers for Disease Control website at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/