NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Director of Public Health, Dr Emilia Crighton, is calling on all 70 year olds across the health board area to make sure they get immunised against shingles.
Also known as Herpes Zoster, shingles is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus which has lain dormant in nerve cells and can reactivate at a later stage when the immune system is weakened.
Dr Crighton said: “I would urge people aged 70 to make an appointment with their GP to get the shingles vaccination.
“It’s an infection which affects a nerve and the skin around it. Shingles affects a specific area of the body and is usually a very painful, debilitating condition which gets worse with age.
“The aim of the universal vaccination programme is to reduce the incidence and severity of shingles disease in older people. However, up until the end of June uptake levels were only at 53.2% so it’s important that more people get vaccinated.
“Without vaccination long standing nerve pain can persist for extended periods even when the symptoms have passed. It’s important that everyone eligible gets the vaccination to not only lessen the chance of getting shingles, but also to diminish the severity of the symptoms if they do get infected.”
The severity of shingles generally increases with age and can lead to post herpetic neuralgia and hospitalisation.
The main symptom is a rash of fluid filled blisters commonly occurring on one side of the face or body. The rash often causes pain, itching or a tingling sensation in the area of the affected nerve.
Shingles can cause a number of complications, the most common being secondary bacterial infections at the site of the rash as well as long standing nerve pain. If shingles affects the eyes there is a risk that further problems can develop in the affected eye.
Complications can affect the lungs, liver, brain, spinal cord or the protective membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord meaning that around 1 in 1,000 cases in adults over 70 can be fatal.
Since September 2013, the shingles vaccine has routinely been offered nationally to everyone aged 70 in a bid to boost immunity against the disease and provide protection against it in later years.
The vaccine aims to prevent the development of the disease in the first place as well as reducing the severity of complications if it does strike.
The shingles immunisation is available those born between 02/09/1944 and 01/09/1945.