According to a report originated in the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, infection with varicella zoster virus (VZV) causes two distinct clinical conditions. Primary VZV infection causes varicella (i.e., chickenpox), a contagious rash illness that typically occurs among children. A vaccine for preventing initial VZV infection has been available in the United States since 1995.

Shingles Image used by permission/Aveyah Cline
Image used by permission/Aveyah Cline

VZV can reactivate clinically decades after initial infection to cause herpes zoster (zoster) (i.e., shingles), a localized and generally painful cutaneous eruption that occurs most frequently among older adults. Approximately 1 million new cases of zoster occur in the United States annually. Approximately one in three persons in the general population will develop zoster during their lifetime.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people 60 years of age or older should get shingles vaccine. Shingles vaccine has been used since 2006. Zostavax® is the only shingles vaccine currently approved for use in the United States.

Last week, a followers on the Infectious Disease News Facebook page contacted me to tell me about her case of shingles, providing photos, and some numbers I was unable to verify to date.

Her name is Aveyah Cline. She is woman in her mid-40s from Salem, Ohio. Salem has a population of approximately 12,000.

Ms Cline noted going to the doctor complaining of a rash on both sides of her body, having “pulsating” pain all around my head, neck, eye, chills and back pain. Several days later, she described it as a fever, pain in the back, burning, more dizziness and tingling that came upon her.

She was diagnosed with shingles and was also referred to an eye doctor to look at the rash near that part of her anatomy.

She was treated with acyclovir after a second visit to the emergency department. Fortunately, later in the week she told me she was healing.

Cline did say some things she heard from doctors she saw while being diagnosed–When at the eye doctor, she says four other women around her age (45) were there with shingles around the eye. In fact, she told Outbreak News Today 22 women in total were diagnosed with the infection around the eye.

She also talked about what she heard of shingles infections in general:

She said her doctor stated they had “many women in their 40’s coming in with Shingles in both sides of the body”, “Beyond 40 women accounted for by their office within days” and “And Doctors everywhere are in shock over the fact, that they account for a total off more than 250 shingle patients in less than one week.”

In the state of Ohio, varicella-zoster infections are a Class B reportable disease, which means:

Report by the end of the next business day after the case or suspected case presents and/or a positive laboratory result to the local public health department where the patient resides. If patient residence is unknown, report to the local public health department in which the reporting health care provider or laboratory is located.

Outbreak News Today attempted to contact the Salem City Health District by email on Dec. 2 to verify what Ms. Cline told me; however, I received no response from health officials.