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Announcer: By the time they reach 80, 50 percent of Americans will have had a bout of shingles, a skin disease that causes blisters and pain.
Doctor: Shingles appears as a rash and usually starts with red dots on a band or belt pattern, and then the dots will become blisters. There's one side of the body, and can also be on the face.
Announcer: To treat the pain and the blisters from shingles, doctors currently prescribe antiviral and pain medication. It is important to start the anti-virals as soon as a diagnosis of shingles has been made.
Dr. Marques: If they think they have shingles, the person should seek medical help. If they start the antiviral therapy as soon as they are diagnosed with shingles, that can help the resolution of the disease.
Announcer: Shingles can cause great discomfort and disruption in a person's life. Irvin Cohen, who suffered a bout of shingles at age 70, can attest to that.
Irvin: At the age of 70 I had a severe case of shingles. For the better part of two weeks, I was absolutely miserable. After two weeks, it began to mitigate a good bit, but for the better part of a month and a half thereafter, I still had no energy.
Announcer: Finding a way to prevent this disease was the goal of researchers in the Shingles Prevention Study, a collaboration between the Department of Veterans' Affairs, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Merck Pharmaceutical Company. This nation-wide study lasted five years and vaccinated some 38,000 people 60 and older. The study led to a vaccine, named Zostavax, that is safe and effective in providing protection against shingles and associated chronic pain.
Dr. Marques: The vaccine boosts the immune system and that helps prevent a reactivation of the virus and shingles.
Announcer: Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006, the vaccine was recommended for people age 60 and older who have no conditions that would prevent them from taking the vaccine. This includes people who have had a previous episode of shingles. People age 60 and older should ask their doctor about getting the shingles vaccine.
Dr. Marques: The doctor's office can recommend where to go to receive the vaccine. Irvin: The discomfort is so intense at times that you almost wish that you don't wake up in the morning. Anything that can be done to mitigate that is certainly going to be appreciated, particularly by the older population.