How to identify Herpes Zoster; Preemptive measures and treatment

Herpes zoster is a virus that is caused by the exposure of the chickenpox virus, where the virus remains in the body even years after the chickenpox symptoms have subsided. The varicella zoster virus remains in the body in a dormant state in the nerves very close to the spine. This virus never disappears from the body once a person has been presented with the chickenpox virus. When a person who has had chickenpox ages, they increase in the potential to experience herpes zoster the older they become. Herpes zoster is extremely uncommon among people who are aged 12 and younger, but people aged 40 and older who have the varicella virus are most commonly at risk of experiencing a herpes zoster outbreak. It is very unlikely for someone to experience herpes zoster more than one time in their life. People that may experience multiple episodes of herpes zosters are those who have a compromised immune system such as from cancer and HIV. Outbreaks of herpes zoster is also called shingles.

Shingles Transmission


Australia has an aging population, much like other countries, and the goal is to maintain a healthy older population through preventative strategies. The burden of herpes zoster in the elderly has substantially increase since the year 2000. This increase makes vaccination among elderly adults especially important. Herpes zoster presents complications that can cause significant economic and social burdens that are not only experienced with the community, but also felt by the healthcare system. Australia experiences a great burden financially related to herpes zoster treatments of people among 50 years of age and older. Roughly 33 million dollars is spent annually on the treatment of herpes zoster in Australia (including the cost of the vaccine). The vaccine has shown a great reduction in the incidence of herpes zoster among people older than 50 years of age.

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Some of the signs associated with herpes zoster are burning (sometimes stabbing) pain on the skin. Tingling and itching may accompany the burning and painful feeling. Blisters or a rash may appear, and may last anywhere from 1 to 14 days (sometimes longer). Blisters and a rash may appear on the face and body within a few days of the transmission of the virus. People have varying symptoms and severity with what they experience with their herpes zoster. At the height of the symptoms, people may experience mild to extreme itching and intense pain.


There is no cure for herpes zoster, but symptoms can be managed with medication. Typical drugs that are designed to treat herpes zoster target the reduction of pain and the symptoms of the rash. These drugs may include pain killers and topical ointments. For the best results, people should start treatment within a 72 hour period of the appearance of the rash. This will reduce scarring and will likely reduce the length of time that the person will experience the rash.

Herpes Zoster and Pregnancy

A herpes zoster outbreak that occurs during pregnancy increases the potential for the virus to be transmitted to the fetus, but in such a case, the virus is typically asymptomatic. There have been reports that some infants and children have developed herpes zoster without ever having a history of varicella zoster symptoms after birth. This indicates that a pregnant woman having a herpes zoster outbreak can transmit the virus to their unborn fetus. When that fetus is born, the baby is now susceptible to a herpes zoster outbreak without ever having had chickenpox symptoms

There are no adverse effects to a fetus when a pregnant woman has an outbreak of herpes zoster. The fetus receives the virus passively, very similar to how they receive nutrients from the mother. Thus, the fetus is born with the anti-varicella antibodies, which were produced during the mother’s chickenpox outbreak. These antibodies give the child immunity to chickenpox and shingles without the ordeal of symptomatic chickenpox. On the flip side, chickenpox is potentially associated with lower birth rates among babies. If a woman contracts chickenpox at any point during her first or second trimester of pregnancy, then there is an increased chance that the baby will be born with a lower birth rate than normal.