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Science News: With its burning grip, shingles can do lasting damage (varicella zoster)

I’ve been meaning to get the vaccine for shingles (adult-onset attack of latent chicken pox virus). Science News report that the effects of shingles can be very bad, and I’m at an age where it could be hit by it (I had full-on chicken pox as a kid).

While my immunue system has been exceptionally strong, I could see for example, being temporarily weakned by a double century, giving the virus a leg up. I’m not keen on even a small risk of blindness or burning pain or dementia.

The vaccine to get is Shingrix, which looks much superior to the predecessor vaccine. It requires two doses, spaced some months apart, and is in short supply at present.

With its burning grip, shingles can do lasting damage

When varicella zoster reawakens, it wreaks a surprising amount of havoc in the body

Decades after its first assault, varicella zoster virus can mount a second attack from its hiding place within nerve cells, bringing pain, burning, numbness or itchiness to the skin, after which a blistery rash often blooms...

The torso is the most common site of this eruption; the belt of pain and rash wraps from front to back on half of the body. Indeed, the words zoster and shingles, from Greek and Latin, mean girdle or belt. As to the pain, the Norwegian word for shingles, helvetesild, means “hell’s fire.”

Less common, but just as painful, shingles can originate on one side of the face, in an ear or in and around an eye. And researchers now know that shingles can occur in the gut, which comes with no rash tip-off.

Age discriminator Shingles can strike anyone infected with varicella zoster virus, but the risk really begins to climb with each year after age 50.

The list of nasty complications from the infection has also grown beyond the debilitating pain that persists in some people for months or years. Recently, scientists have learned more about the virus’s ability to infect arteries, increasing the risk of stroke or causing headaches and vision problems. There are even hints of a connection between shingles in the eye and dementia.


In 2017, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Shingrix, a vaccine to prevent shingles in people 50 and older that outperforms an earlier vaccine, Zostavax.

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