It was reported that Canadas Prime Minister, Jean Chretien, was suffering from shingles. No, he wasnt having a new roof put on the Prime Ministers home in Ottawa. He was suffering from an outbreak of blisters on his skin. Ive had shingles and so has my husband and my mother. My case was relatively mild. Still, it was extremely painful. My husband and mother both had a more severe case and had huge blisters overlapping each other – hence the name shingles.

Every year approximately one million people in Canada and the United States are afflicted with this virus, also known as herpes zoster. (I was unable to find statistics for other countries.)It is a painful viral infection. Anyone who has had chicken pox can develop this disorder. It can strike at any age, but is most common in the elderly. (I am not elderly nor is my husband. When I had shingles, I was 38. My husband was only 37 when he came down with them.)

Statistics tell us that one in ten people whove had chicken pox will suffer from shingles some time in their adult life. The reason for this is that the chicken pox virus lies dormant in the nerves along the spine for years. If the virus becomes activated, shingles are the result. The germ travels along the nervous system, causing damage. The result is shingles.

Shingles can vary from mild to extreme. They are extremely painful and appear as a red rash with blisters. A burning sensation is very sensitive to touch. Clothes and bed clothes can cause irritation. The blisters are usually confined to one area on the body. They last about a month and at times, as in my husbands case, leave scars.

Shingles are often activated by a stressful situation. Unlike chicken pox they are not contagious. However, if you have never had chicken pox, you may break out with them after being in contact with a person who has shingles. (I never had chicken pox as a child. My family doctor suspects that either I had a very mild case and didnt break out, or that I was a carrier, so exceptions do apply.)

Shingles never cause an outbreak of other herpes related viruses. It cannot cause cold sores or genital herpes. The dormant germ can only cause shingles.

Symptoms of shingles may vary. Before my outbreak I felt like someone was poking me with a pin. Itchiness or tingling is experienced by some people. Others have stabbing pain. Some experience no pain until the rash and blisters appear. Before the rash is noticeable, some people think they are having a gall bladder attack or even a heart attack. When the rash and blisters are at their peak, the pain can be excruciating.

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