There are a lot of nuanced facts and evidence about vaccines. The so-called “pro-vaccine” crowd looks at the body of evidence, then concludes that it saves children’s lives by stopping vaccine-preventable diseases. The “anti-vaccine” side seems to rely on anecdotes, cherry picking bad studies published in really bad journals, and read anti-science websites, just to support their preconceived conclusions. And now there is a lot of junk science with respect to chickenpox and shingles, much of which we need to refute and debunk.
Generally, when I write about vaccines, it’s about protecting children’s lives from vaccine preventable diseases. That itself is a noble goal for vaccines. But in case you didn’t know, there is also a CDC schedule for adult vaccines, which is as important to adults as they are to children.
Vaccines have one purpose – to protect us and those whom we love from potentially deadly and debilitating diseases. Many of us in the blogosphere have talked about the children’s schedule a lot, often to debunk claims of people who are ignorant of science, and think that the children’s vaccine schedule is causing undue harm. Yeah our intellectually deficient president, Donald Trump, thinks he knows more than the CDC, but that’s a problem shared by many vaccine deniers.
Just in case you were wondering, there is more to adult vaccines than just flu vaccines. There are several other vaccines indicated for adult use, including those adults with underlying health issues like diabetes, HIV and heart disease – unfortunately, the uptake for adult vaccines is depressingly low. Let’s take at the low uptake and the recommended adult vaccines schedule.
Yesterday, while researching videos and articles for my post about Stuart Scott, I ran across a video where Keith Olbermann, noted sports journalist and noted progressive pundit, was leaning on a cane while talking to Scott, who was fighting for his life against appendix cancer. I wrote a note to myself to find out the backstory.
Then Olbermann made it easy for me–on his afternoon show on ESPN2, said that he was using the cane because of an extremely severe case of shingles, sometimes known as herpes zoster. Shingles is actually caused by the chickenpox virus, Varicella zoster. If you have had the chickenpox infection, you don’t actually get cured by ridding yourself of the virus–what happens it that the zoster virus remains latent in the nerve cell bodies and other nervous system bodies. While the virus is in this latent condition, it is ignored by the immune system and there are no obvious symptoms or signs that it’s there. Continue reading “Keith Olbermann and shingles–get the vaccine”
This article, originally published on 2 January 2014 has been updated to include more information about studies regarding chickenpox in children and its effect on rate of shingles outbreaks.
Shingles, known medically as Herpes zoster (HZ), is caused by the Varicella zoster virus (VZV), which causes chickenpox in children. After the chickenpox infection, VZV latently persists, without symptoms, in the basal ganglia including the trigeminal ganglion. For unknown reasons, VZV is reactivated from latency, and moves along sensory nerves to the endings in the skin, where it replicates causing the characteristic HZ rash, commonly called shingles.
There is no known cure for VZV, though it can be treated with antiviral medications. Although the infection presents with a rash, commonly fairly painful, it usually subsides within three to five weeks. Unfortunately, about one in five patients develop a painful condition called postherpetic neuralgia, which is often difficult to manage. Because VZV is never eliminated, after a shingles attack, VZV again becomes latent, to attack again sometime in the future. Continue reading “Why we vaccinate-shingles may increase risk of stroke”
One of the consequences of contracting chicken pox (Varicella zoster) is that the virus is not destroyed by the body’s immune system. Once the symptoms of chicken pox disappear, the virus hides itself in the basal root ganglion, unseen by the immune system. Even though the body generated an immune response to the original zoster infection, after several decades, the response is either weakened or disappears.
Eventually, due to unknown factors (such as stress or other illnesses), the zoster virus “moves” along the nerve bundles, and causes a second infection with much more serious consequences to the patient. This second infection is called herpes zoster (despite being the same exact virus, it was given a different name probably because it was originally thought to be two different viruses, but in this case, it’s not given a formal biological binomial name), or more commonly, shingles. This infection usually happens when the patient is in their 50’s and older, though it can happen at any time. Continue reading “FDA approves Zostavax vaccine to prevent shingles in individuals 50 to 59 years of age”