Wednesday, January 2 2013, 05:47 PM MST
Shingles Hitting Younger Crowd
(KUTV) This time of year, we’re on the look-out for cold and flu season, but a contagious rash is popping up in a surprising way.
Shingles is a painful rash that affects people who had chicken pox and are over 60 years old.
But now, it’s hitting a younger crowd—and it’s on the rise.
The last thing any college student wants to worry about is getting sick.
“It felt like either I had a pinched nerve or that just someone was constantly stabbing me,” Caroline Radaj, a shingles patient, says.
When Caroline developed a rash on top of the pain, a quick online search led her to shingles and doctors quickly confirmed the diagnosis.
“It’s something that happens in older people, so for it to happen to a young college student they were little bit baffled at that,” Caroline says.
Researchers say cases of shingles are up six-fold across all age groups and there’s a particularly alarming rise on college campuses.
“Instead of maybe one every three or four months—you may be having two or three each month in the college and that stands out,” Dr. Barbara Yawn, a shingles expert, says.
Anyone who has had the chicken pox can get shingles. The big question is if these younger shingles sufferers will get it again.
Dr. Yawn says, “If you got your first at 80 it’s not very long til you won't have to worry about it. But if you get your first episode of shingles at 18 or 20, you've got another 60-70 years that you're at risk and our data suggests that the risk of recurrence is higher than the risk of occurrence.”
Technically shingles is not contagious, but the virus can be spread to a person who has never had chicken pox.
There is a vaccine, but it’s only approved for people 60 and older.
Researchers are working to pinpoint the cause of this recent spike to keep more people, young and old, healthier in the future.
(Copyright 2013 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)