Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is an infection that can be very serious. The virus causes a painful skin rash with blisters on one side of the body, often in a strip. It can cause complications like loss of vision and debilitating nerve pain. Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox.

Who is at risk for getting shingles?

You can get shingles at any age if you've had chickenpox. But older adults and those who are immunocompromised (e.g. HIV+, defects in T-cell function) get it most often. Two-thirds of shingles cases in Canada happen to people over 50 years of age. The severity of shingles and its complications also increase with age.

Is it contagious?

Shingles cannot be passed from one person to another. You cannot get shingles from being exposed to someone with shingles, nor can you get shingles if someone who has it coughs or sneezes on you.

The varicella virus can be passed from one person to another, but only when:

  • a person has shingles with a rash in the blister phase
  • the other person has not had chickenpox

Once the rash has developed crusts, the infected person is no longer contagious.

How can I reduce my risk of getting shingles?

The shingles vaccine can reduce your risk of getting shingles and the long-term pain it can cause. The shingles vaccine is licensed for use in adults 50 years of age and older. Seniors who are 65 to 70 years of age are eligible to receive the publicly funded shingles vaccine.

Is the shingles vaccine safe and effective?

It is safe and effective for the prevention of shingles and its complications. Studies have shown that the vaccine reduced the risk of shingles by 51.3% and the risk of post-herpetic neuralgia (the most frequent complication of shingles) by 66.5%. The vaccine's effectiveness decreases considerably after 70 years of age.

Who can get the free shingles vaccine?

To get the free shingles vaccine, you must be 65 to 70 years old. If you don't qualify for the free shingles vaccine, you can still get vaccinated with a prescription from your family doctor, another primary care provider, or local health unit. But you have to pay for it yourself.

Where can I get the vaccine?

From your family doctor, other primary care provider (e.g. nurse practitioner), or from the Health Unit.

North Bay

345 Oak Street West

Parry Sound

70 Joseph Street Unit #302

Burk's Falls

17 Copeland Street (by appointment only)