Date: Tue, 20 May 2008 08:38:51 -0400
Reply-To: heinz and inge trebitz <iht63**At_Symbol_Here**VALLEY.NET>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: heinz and inge trebitz <iht63**At_Symbol_Here**VALLEY.NET>
Subject: Shingles Vaccine

Dear Moderator:

Doug Walters, in his May 16 posting, points to a recent article in the
Washington Post (May 15, Health Day News) discussing the US Center for
Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that all adults over age 60
should be vaccinated against shingles. To quote from the article: " Shingles
is caused by the chicken pox virus, known as Varicella Zoster, which remains
dormant in the body after being infected. [When emerging many years later,
the Shingles virus] causes blisters , which develop on one side of the body,
[possibly] including the face, and can cause severe pain that can last for
weeks, months or years."

Shingles? Unless you or somebody in the family had your own personal
experience, this may be your first time hearing about the disease. In the
first few years after WW II there were lots of shingles cases in Germany. My
father, then 46, came down with it and was hospitalized for a week. I
suspect that the general poor state of health (and diminished immunity
defenses) were part of the cause. Until early last year, when I got shingles
myself, I've never heard about shingles again. In my case the rashes
appeared on the right side of my back, just below the belt line. I
remembered my father's illness and went to see a doctor within 3 days from
noticing the first symptoms and was successfully treated. There was no need
to be hospitalized.
Does the experience justify vaccination at $ 150 a shot?
The Washington Post article mentions that " for those aged 60 or older, the
vaccine reduced the occurrence by about 50 %". Not very impressive.
About half of the 1 million shingles cases in the US per year occur in
people age 60 and older. That is only 1.2 % of the US population between age
60 and 85. As my case shows (and doctors will confirm) shingles, if
diagnosed early,
can be treated successfully, avoiding most of the long-lasting nerve pains.
Early treatment is much cheaper
than vaccination.
There is no shingles epidemic in the waiting. Much different from the
occurrence of chicken pox, infection with shingles through airborne contact
is unlikely.
However, vaccination may be advisable for persons with immuno deficiencies.
My recent case of shingles probably was caused by the administration of an
immune depressant in connection with an artificial lens implantation in
both eyes.
Obviously, the decision whether to get vaccinated is a personal one. It is
also a matter of education. Unfortunately, the Washington Post article fails
to present concise information on the nature of the disease and the
importance of early
diagnosis and treatment.
One final set of numbers: According to US census there are approx. 40
million people in the US between age 60 and 85. At a cost of $ 150 per
vaccine dosis, the vaccination of all people age 60 to 85 in the US would
cost $ 6 billion.

Heinz H. Trebitz, Ph.D.
Thetford Center, VT 05075
Tel: 802-785-2129
e-mail: iht63**At_Symbol_Here**

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