If you've had chicken pox, you need to know this
Published Monday, October 7, 2013 4:53PM EDT Last Updated Monday, October 7, 2013 7:07PM EDT
If you've ever had chicken pox, you run a thirty percent chance of developing a painful, itchy illness called "shingles." Once considered a disease for older people, shingles is on the rise among the younger crowd.
There is a vaccine but it comes with a hefty price tag. But it’s a price Terry Orchard would now gladly have paid. Orchard is currently taking a slew of drugs he never dreamed he would need. The pastor with Britannia Baptist Church went on a church trip recently to Malawi in Central Africa. Before he left, he signed up for all the tropical medications recommended.
“Twinrex for Hepatitis,” recalls Orchard, “Tetanus, Typhoid, malaria medication.”
Way down on his priority list, he says, was a $200 vaccine for shingles. So, Orchard passed on it. After an exhausting 34-hour trip back, Orchard noticed a sensitive spot on his forehead.
"Because I was in a remote area of Central Africa,” he says, “and had been bitten while there, I went through Tropical Disease Unit first because they thought I had picked up a parasite.”
By the time he got the diagnosis of shingles, the virus had spread to his eyelid and lid had swollen shut. In some cases, shingles can cause blindness. In extreme cases, it can even kill.
“In Canada every year, there are about two-thousand hospitalizations for it,” says general practitioner Dr. Judy Chow, “and those hospitalizations average 10 to 12 days. “That's a lot when you consider you could have pneumonia and may not be in the hospital that long.”
Dr. Chow adds that in addition to the hospitalizations, there are about 20 deaths a year.
Chow says one in three of us will develop shingles if we've had chicken pox or have been exposed to the virus at some point in our lives. Shingles, also known as Herpes Zoster, causes a painful red rash, extreme itching and burning usually just on one side of the body.
The older we get, the more likely we are of developing it but cases are on the rise among younger people. In recent years, a vaccine called Zostavax was developed, though it is aimed at people 50 and over.
Dr. Chow says "the studies are pretty good. It shows a reduction of about 70% (in the development of shingles) and the other exciting part is that it reduces the pain you get if you developed shingles.”
After a week off work and nearly the loss of an eye, Terry Orchard wishes he'd spent the $200 for the vaccine.
“Pay it. Get vaccinated,” he says. “You do not want to go through what I went through.”