Almost one in three Americans will develop one case of shingles in their lifetime. And while the elderly are at greater risk, data shows that incidents among adults aged 30 to 59 have increased steadily, while senior cases started to slow down in 2008.
Painful rash caused by varicella zoster virus (VZV) or chickenpox virus, shingles usually appears as a band of blisters on one side of the body or face. After a case of chickenpox, VZV often remains dormant in the body, reactivating years or decades after the initial infection.
Because they contain the original virus, shingles, also known as shingles (HZ), can be contagious and spread from person to person once reactivated. And although they are not life threatening, sometimes shingles can lead to hospitalization and long term side effects.
Identify patients at risk
People of all ages are at risk for shingles, especially those who have had chickenpox or who have been exposed to VZV. However, the risk increases exponentially as patients age, as does the risk of complications. Patients who have immunosuppressive conditions like leukemia, lymphoma, or HIV or who are taking immunosuppressive drugs may also be at risk.
Complications can include:
- Postherpetic neuralgia (NPH)
- Ophthalmic involvement, which can lead to vision loss
- Bacterial infections
Cases of shingles are usually easy to identify due to the distinctive rash that forms blisters on one side of the body or face, although it can be present in several areas. The first sign of shingles may include mild to severe pain, itching, or tingling between 1 and 5 days before the rash appears.
The rash usually lasts 14-28 days in total, turning into blisters by day 4 before forming between days 7-10. Patients often describe a burning, itchy, throbbing, or throbbing sensation. knife at and around the rash site. Other symptoms can include fever, chills, headache, discomfort, and upset stomach.
Pharmacists and Shingles Prevention
Pharmacists can help prevent the spread by educating patients about signs, symptoms and promoting treatment options.
Some treatments to recommend to patients:
- Over-the-counter medication. Analgesics, Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen can be used to treat persistent symptoms and relieve pain.
- Antiviral drug. Acyclovir, valaciclovir, or famciclovir help to stop the duration of the rash and are best given within 72 hours of diagnosis. They can also prevent complications like PHN.
- Soothing and soothing products. Calamine lotion, compresses, oatmeal baths, and witch hazel can reduce discomfort from rashes. Since the virus is more likely to spread during the blister stage, helping patients manage symptoms effectively can reduce the risk of new infections.
The CDC recommends the shingles vaccine for patients 50 years of age and older to prevent infection. With the growing number of cases in young adults, people between the ages of 30 and 50 may also consider this option.
Prior to 2020, there were two main shingles vaccines: Shingrix and Zostavax.
Shingrix, a two-dose recombinant shingles vaccine, has become the leading choice of pharmacies and healthcare providers nationwide. Zostavax was a live shingles vaccine that offered less protection against cases of shingles and was discontinued in the United States as of November 2020.
Offer shingles vaccines at your pharmacy
Pharmacists have played a vital role in community health care, especially during COVID-19. Going forward, your pharmacy should consider adding immunization services to your offerings, ensuring that you can treat common but preventable conditions like shingles.
Systems like the model by appointment provide pharmacies with a model for simple and efficient pharmaceutical workflows that translate into quality patient care. Added tools such as digital engagement platforms, direct secure messaging, and immunization scheduling will keep you organized and add value to your patient experience.
Want to learn more about how Digital Pharmacist’s digital engagement and communications solution can support your shingles vaccination services? Request your free software demo today.