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”