Shingles and Postherpetic Neuralgia† Rates* by Age, United States
*per 1,000 person-years.
† Defined as pain for 30 days or longer
Almost 1 out of 3 people in the United States will develop shingles during their lifetime. Most people who get shingles will have it only once. However, it is possible to get it a second or even third time.
Your risk of getting shingles increases as you get older. The most common complication of shingles is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), which is severe pain in the areas where the shingles rash occurred. About 10 to 15% of people who get shingles will experience PHN. The risk of PHN increases with age.
Children can get shingles, but it is not common.
Approximately 1 to 4% of people who get shingles are hospitalized for complications. Older adults and people with weakened or suppressed immune systems are more likely to be hospitalized. About 30% of people hospitalized for shingles have a weakened or suppressed immune system.
Shingles Rates in People Older than 65 Years, United States, 1992–2010
Data Source: http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1784289
Shingles is increasing among adults in the United States. The increase has been gradual over a long period of time. We do not know the reason for this increase.
One popular explanation, now thought unlikely, is that the increase in shingles might be related to fewer chickenpox cases in United States children due to widespread vaccination against chickenpox. Some people suggest that chickenpox boosts a person’s immunity to the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) and reduces the risk of VZV reactivating as shingles. Therefore, less children with chickenpox could theoretically lead to an increase in shingles in adults. However, this proposed explanation seems unlikely based on two CDC studies which found that shingles rates:
- started increasing before chickenpox vaccine was introduced in the United States, and
- did not increase faster after the routine chickenpox vaccination program started.
Other countries without routine chickenpox vaccination programs, have observed similar increases in shingles rates.
Although not common among children, the rate of shingles in United States children has been declining since the routine varicella vaccination program began. Like the wild-type (natural) virus, the attenuated (weakened) vaccine virus can reactivate and cause shingles. However, children who get the chickenpox vaccine appear to have a much lower risk of shingles than children who were infected with wild-type chickenpox. Vaccinated children are less likely to become infected with wild-type chickenpox virus, which is more likely to reactivate as shingles compared to attenuated vaccine virus.
In 2016, 33.4% of adults 60 years and older reported receiving Zostavax®, a shingles vaccine in use since 2006. This is an increase from the 31% reported the previous year.
CDC will collect data on vaccination of adults 50 years and older using Shingrix, and will share this information when it is available.
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- Page last reviewed: January 19, 2018
- Page last updated: February 23, 2018
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