NBC 5 producer Bridget Minogue was shocked when she was diagnosed with shingles two weeks ago.
“My gland under my chin was as big as a golf ball," Minogue said, explaining the symptoms she woke up with on New Year’s Eve. "It was so swollen and I had a little spot underneath my neck,."
In her 40’s,, Minogue went to the doctor and was stunned at the diagnosis.
“He said, ‘I think you have an early sign of shingles,’ and I said, ‘no way! I’m too young,’ and he said, ‘actually, you’re not.'"
Shingles and chickenpox originate from the same varicella-zoster virus.
“People who had chickenpox as a child, about half of us will get shingles at some point in our lives,” said Dr. David Schwartz, Chair of Infectious Diseases at Cook County Health.
Even when one recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the nervous system. It can pick any nerve ending in your body to reappear, often in the form of a very painful rash.
“The pain kicked in and the third day was probably the worst,” Minogue said.
Two vaccines have earned FDA approval to prevent shingles. The newest one, Shingrix, was in such high demand in 2019, its manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline had to increase production. Shingrix is approved for people age 50 and older.
Minogue said she doesn’t understand why it’s not available for younger people.
“I know people who’ve had it more than once and they’re in their 40’s, so it doesn’t make sense that you can’t get the vaccine until you’re 50,” said Minogue.
Dr. David Schwartz indicated that the age recommendation is based on FDA testing and risk.
“The risk of getting shingles is relatively low among younger people,” he argued.
The reality is, if you had chickenpox as a kid, your risk of getting shingles increases every year you get older.
“The ability of the body to keep the original chicken pox virus in check seems to wane with time,” Dr. Schwartz said.
If you are older than 50 years old, you may want to consider the shingles vaccine, but acording to Dr. Schwartz, you should be aware that there can be complications such as swelling at the injection site and fever.
The two-dose Shingrix vaccine is not covered by all insurance companies, so it is advised to check if it is available to you.
As far as protecting your children, many kids these days get the chickenpox vaccine and studies show children who are vaccinated have a much lower risk of getting shingles compared to someone who has had a natural chickenpox infection.