shingles

Perhaps the strangest medical phenomenon discovered in recent years is a link between the lone star tick and an allergy to red meat.

The bite of a lone star tick exposes a person to a small carbohydrate called alpha-gal. In a handful of people, this exposure elicits an abnormal immune response that produces a type of antibody called IgE, which causes allergies. Because red meat also contains alpha-gal, people who have been sensitized to the carbohydrate from a tick bite can develop life-threatening anaphylaxis if they consume pork or beef. 

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As we've explained in the past, shingles is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus, varicella zoster, that results in an extremely painful eruption of blisters along a nerve pathway (a dermatome), and which can provoke long-lasting pain even after the blisters have healed (post-herpetic neuralgia). Shingles is most often seen in older people and those whose immune system is compromised for various reasons. The Zostavax vaccine against shingles (Herpes zoster) has been recommended for individuals over 60 for over 10 years.

A report just published in the New England Journal of Medicine presents the results of an...

When I was a child, getting chickenpox was a rite of passage. Everyone had to get it, sooner or later, and sooner was preferable. The day I noticed in 2nd grade the itchy little bumps forming, I celebrated because I knew that it meant several days away from school. 

Of course, after just a day or two of itchiness, I learned that chickenpox wasn't all that fun. Then, when I turned 30, I suffered an outbreak of shingles, which was incredibly unpleasant. It was then that I wished the chickenpox vaccine had existed when I was a tot. And because the virus that causes chickenpox is a type of herpesvirus, it will live inside me forever, meaning that I could have an outbreak of...

ijection-913793-mAnyone who has had chickenpox is at risk for shingles. The virus that causes chickenpox, herpes zoster, can lurk in the body long after the active disease has ended. Then, decades later, it can be reactivated and affect some nerve path(s), often causing extremely painful itching and blisters along the path those nerves follow. Even after the initial outbreak has healed, severe pain may persist a condition known as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).

The good news is that there is now an effective vaccine, Zostavax, that can prevent shingles. But who should be getting the shot? Currently it is approved for...

vaccineShingles, also called herpes zoster, is a reactivation of the dormant chickenpox virus in the body. Often, this reactivation that leads to the disease occurs years or even decades after a chickenpox infection. The first symptoms of shingles are extreme sensitivity or pain in a broad band on one side of the body, followed by a raised red rash and blisters 1 to 3 days after the pain starts. The blisters then form scabs by about 10 to 12 days. There are more than 3 million cases of Shingles per year in the United States, most cases occurring in people over 60 years of age.

An experimental shingles vaccine from...

Shingles eruption The painful skin and nerve disorder, shingles, is caused by a re-awakened chickenpox virus (medically, the varicella-zoster virus, VZV). Before the introduction of the two-dose chickenpox vaccine, Varivax, in the early 1990s, almost everyone contracted the itchy pustular contagion during infancy or childhood. Nowadays, clinical chickenpox is highly unusual, outside of those pockets of vaccine denial becoming (unfortunately) more commonplace due to superstitious fears. Fortunately,...