Herpes Zoster Is A Misunderstood Sexually Transmitted Disease
Herpes Zoster is more commonly known as shingles and is related to Varicella or Chicken Pox. Herpes Zoster is contracted exclusively by people who have had Chicken Pox in the past, though it does not affect all people who have had the common childhood illness. Though only one-third of people previously infected with Varicella will develop shingles, the incidence rate increases greatly in those who are immunocompromised, including older adults and those with HIV. The symptoms of shingles are extremely painful and develop from localized pain to rashes and vascular rupture. Since shingles attack the nerves, the pain is severe and is often managed by opioid pain killers, systemic analgesics, and steroids.
To add to the discomfort, 4% of patients experience postherpetic neuralgia, which is ongoing pain after an attack of shingles or a reoccurrence of the illness. These are also difficult to manage and a doctor will often prescribe a cocktail of drugs to mitigate the symptoms. Antivirals are available for immunocompromised patients, but the remainder of the treatment is almost exclusively the management of symptoms topically, orally, or through injection.
Herpes Zoster in Australia
According to the research in Australia, shingles caused almost 500 deaths in a recent ten year period, with the vast majority being over the age of 80. Because of the weaknesses of the immune systems in the elderly, it is especially important to be cautious about the exposure of those individuals to the Varicella virus. Vaccines do exist to protect the vulnerable, though I am not medically educated enough to understand their function for those who have already contracted Chicken Pox. In Australia, the incidence of Herpes Zoster continues to rise despite all recent attempts to quell it, and places a heavy burden upon the national health system and especially on the older population. Viagrafarmakeio.gr health center suggests that anyone experiencing the symptoms of Varicella refrain from attending work, school, daycare, etc and self isolate, with people with Chicken Pox waiting until all blisters are dry and Shingle sufferers cover rashes with bandages to prevent the spread of the illness. Vulnerable people included are those who are pregnant, immunocompromised, too young or old to receive the vaccine, infected with HIV, or being treated with chemotherapy.
What Herpes Zoster does
Another not oft-discussed consequence of contracting the Varicella virus is its impact on eye health. Many eye diseases and vision loss can develop as the virus attacks the ophthalmic branch of the trigeminal nerve. In recent decades, a Varicella vaccine has been invented and is a part of the regular schedule of vaccines given to children. This vaccine should be given to all who are able to tolerate it and who have not yet contracted the varicella virus. The biggest threat to children and to older adults regarding the virus are people who choose not to vaccinate for misguided pseudoscientific or religious reasons. The development of herd immunity, where people unable to receive vaccines are protected because the vast majority of individuals are vaccinated against a particular illness, is essential to eventually eradicate Varicella, and it’s ugly stepsister Shingles.
Who is affected
Australia is far from the only country affected by Herpes Zoster, which is, in fact, an international health crisis, but the issues can be mitigated in a number of ways. Firstly, parents can be proactive in vaccinating their children and challenging the idea that this is a harmless and short-lived childhood illness experienced by all and by educating the population on the dangers of the virus which forever remains within the impacted individual. Secondly, herd immunity developed from those vaccinations can limit exposure to immunocompromised individuals. Thirdly, vaccines countering Shingles can be administered to those for whom it is relevant. Fourthly, vulnerable individuals should be educated on the risks involved in contracting or reactivating the Varicella virus and be given adequate medical options to protect themselves. Finally, if all else fails, the public should be widely educated about the symptoms and risks of the varicella virus, to begin treating symptoms as quickly as possible.
An evolving understanding
Without a doubt, it is important that infected individuals and the most vulnerable populations be exceedingly careful about containing the virus and preventing it from spreading. I hope that respect for the medical industry returns and that we can eradicate Varicella and prevent anyone from experiencing these potentially devastating symptoms.