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Shingles Vaccine Recommended to All Over 60

The U.S. Center for Disease Control has recommended that everyone over 60 be vaccinated against shingles.

The sweeping nature of this recommendation is due to widespread exposure to the chicken pox virus, which causes shingles. Said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt Medical School in Nashville, TN:
"If we look at everyone who's over age 60, for all intents and purposes, 100 percent -- even if you don't remember having had it -- literally everyone age 60 and over has been exposed in their past lives to the chickenpox virus".
Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, causes skin eruptions in girdle-like pattern that roughly follows a major nerve pathway, often on the trunk of the body, although it can also spread to the face and even the eyes, causing blindness. The initial redness and irritation often develops into blisters that are so painful as to be debilitating. "It can cause months and sometimes years of pain," said Dr. Robert Schwartz, professor and chairman of family medicine and community health at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

The vaccine, Zostavax, was approved by the FDA in May 2006. Since the CDC has issued this recommendation, federal health officials will be in a position to influence whether or not it will be covered by insurance companies.

"The vaccine is a major public health advance" for the 60-plus age group, said Schaffner. "If you reach age 85," he says, "almost half of people will have experienced shingles at some point in their lives. It's really quite extraordinary. There are 1 million cases of shingles that occur in the U.S. each year."

"Generally, anyone 60 and over should be vaccinated, even if they've had shingles in the past," said Curtis Allen, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control.

More information about the vaccine from the CDC is available here.
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