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Shingles [Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV)]

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Shingles, also known as zoster or herpes zoster, is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which is the virus that causes chickenpox.  The initial (primary) infection with VZV causes chickenpox and then the virus stays dormant (inactive) in the dorsal root ganglia (nerve roots).  Later in life when the virus reactivates, it causes a painful, itchy or tingly rash called shingles, with clusters of vesicles (fluid-filled lesions).  Post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) is the most common complication of shingles and is persistent pain in the area where the rash was even after the rash has resolved.   PHN can last for weeks, months and occasionally years, and can be quite severe and debilitating. 

A safe effective vaccine is available to prevent shingles and post-herpetic neuralgia.  Two doses of Shingrix® are recommended for adults 50 years and older, whether or not they have already had shingles or previously received Zostavax® (a shingles vaccine in use since 2006).  Shingrix® is the preferred shingles vaccine.

Shingles infections are NOT reportable in Orange County, unless associated with hospitalization, death, or an outbreak (which should be reported within one (1) working day by phone (714-834-8180) or fax (714-560-4050) to OCHCA Epidemiology)


For more information, see the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website     

Last reviewed December 26, 2018