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Infectious Diseases

SHINGLES - Best prescriptions - Contagious??

01/12/2000

Question:

SHINGLES: My 78 yr. old wife was diagnosed with shingles at the local hosp., emergency rm. FAMVIR 250 MG TAB SK B AND HYDROCO/APAP5-500MG TAB WATS was prescribed. We have an appointment with our family Dr. 1-06-00. Are there any better quality prescription recommendations? I do not know if I have had chicken pox. Do I need to take and precautions

Answer:

Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a band of blisters on the skin caused by recurrence of the Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV), the same virus that causes Chicken Pox. As long as the medication is started within 3 days of onset of rash, patients have been shown to benefit from seven days of treatment with acyclovir 800 mg fives times daily or famciclovir 500 mg three times daily or valacyclovir 1000 mg three times daily. Some physicians would add prednisone for patients over the age of 50, but this is not universally recommended and would require further discussion of the risks and benefits of prednisone.

Most adults who have lived in a temperate area, such as the United States, caught Chicken Pox in their youth and are protected for life. If you want to know if you have ever had Chicken Pox, your physician can take a blood test for antibodies against VZV. If you have never had Chicken Pox, you are at risk of catching it from your wife`s shingles. You would be at much higher risk, however, of catching it from a child with Chicken Pox, which is much more contagious than shingles typically is. You should consult your own physician for advise about precautions to take.

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Response by:

Lisa A Haglund, MD Lisa A Haglund, MD
Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati