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Shingles: When Chickenpox Strikes Twice


If you had chickenpox as a child, you may remember the itchy, painful rashes and the fever that goes with it. But did you know that a person can get it again later in life? The second time around is incredibly more painful, and it's actually not called chickenpox, it's called shingles. Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the same virus that causes chickenpox.

The virus lies dormant in the nerve roots. In some people, it may never surface. But those most at risk are those whose immune systems are weakened by disease, stress, medication, or age. What results is a painful, itchy, blistering rash on one side of the body or face, and may include a headache, fever, or both. The rash shouldn't be scratched, and usually lasts a week or two but can linger for a month or more.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the lifetime risk of developing shingles is about 30 percent. An antiviral drug can be used as soon as symptoms appear. As a preventitive measure, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts members with our pharmacy coverage who are aged 60 and older can now go to a participating retail pharmacy to get a shingles vaccine at no cost.

People who suspect symptoms of shingles should call their doctor or health care provider right away. To learn more, visit