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Chickenpox Vaccine Not Responsible for Rise in Shingles, Study Says

39 percent increase over 18 years remains unexplained

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He said the researchers also thought reported cases of shingles could be increasing because more people might see doctors as exposure to medical knowledge increases. But they found that the incidence of shingles was going up faster than the incidence of other conditions. If the increase in shingles were due to more people going to the doctor, the incidence of other medical disorders would also be rising, Hales said.

In the future, Hales said that because of the chickenpox vaccine, "shingles should be a relatively rare disease." That's because youngsters who are vaccinated will never have had the initial infection with the varicella zoster virus.

In the meantime, people who've had chickenpox should consider getting the shingles vaccine. And that means just about everyone. "Almost 100 percent of people in the U.S. have been affected by varicella zoster," Hales said. The CDC recommends the one-time vaccine for anyone aged 60 or older.

Dr. Kenneth Bromberg, director of the Vaccine Research Center at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City, echoed that recommendation.

"So far, we don't know why there's more shingles. But, there is a vaccine that can prevent it," said Bromberg.

Shingles occurs most often in people older than 50. Early symptoms usually include mild to severe burning or shooting pain on one side of the body or face. Rashes or blisters emerge after that, and pain from shingles can continue for weeks, months or even years.

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