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January 17, 2020 | Abigail Mckay

Difference Between Chickenpox & Shingles

Before the chickenpox vaccine, the varicella-zoster virus was rampant in children worldwide. However, after the vaccine was developed, chickenpox became virtually non-existent. Shingles, on-the-other-hand, is still a prevalent condition caused by the same virus as chickenpox. For those who have been vaccinated for the chickenpox, the likelihood of acquiring the chickenpox and shingles is minuscule. However, those who did not receive the vaccine, as a child or adult, are still at risk today.


Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease that is still active, but the chance of contracting the virus is slim due to the available vaccine. It is recommended to receive the vaccine, which comes in two doses, as a young child. However, it is encouraged for adults to be immunized if an individual has not been previously vaccinated or if they have not had the chickenpox. An unvaccinated child or adult who has the chickenpox will develop an itchy rash that will eventually scab over in 4 to 7 days. In the beginning, the rash is generally localized to the trunk and face, but it will spread to the entire body as the virus progresses. Other symptoms can include fatigue, lack of appetite, and a fever. The chickenpox vaccination, like with any vaccine, does not promise immunity but does significantly reduce the occurrence and symptom severity if it is contracted. 


 After the chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in your body, usually attaching itself to nerve tissue in the spinal cord. Years later, typically when a person is over the age of 50, the virus can become active again, but this time the virus presents itself as shingles. Not every person who has had chickenpox will develop shingles. Shingles are incredibly painful, so it is crucial to do everything in your power to prevent the condition. Symptoms include a rash that presents on one side of the body, which is painful and sensitive to touch. However, cases have been reported where there is no presenting rash, but localized nerve pain that lasts for a few weeks. Other symptoms are fever, headache, and fatigue. Shingles, much like chickenpox, is highly contagious. The virus can be passed from the open sores to those who are not immune — for instance, an individual who has never been immunized or has never had the chickenpox. However, instead of developing shingles, the unprotected person will be infected with chickenpox. 


 As stated previously, there are vaccinations available for both chickenpox and shingles. The chickenpox vaccine is a routine vaccination administered in childhood. Still, it can be given into adulthood for those who did you have chickenpox as a child or were not immunized previously. The shingles vaccine is available to people over the age of 50. This vaccination may only be effective for up to five years, so it is essential to stay aware and up-to-date on your immunizations. It is a preventative measure, and will not help if a person currently has shingles. Speak with a doctor today at Cura4U to see if the chickenpox or shingles vaccine is right for you.

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Abigail Mckay

Abigail has been a nurse for five years, and throughout her time as a nurse, she has worked in multiple medical-surgical units as well as spent time in the infusion therapy clinic and endoscopy lab. She is passionate about preventative medicine through patient education regarding nutrition and exercise. Due to her passion, Abigail has gone on to earn two certifications including a certification in medical-surgical nursing (CMSRN) and a certification in holistic nursing (HNB-BC), in hopes of being able to better serve her patients. Abigail earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA and now bettering patient education in the healthcare system through partnering with American TelePhysicians.