Merck's Zostavax halves risk of shingles

Although shingles isn't cureable, a retrospective study has found that Merck's Zostavax vaccine can cut a person's risk of of developing the illness by 55 percent. It is the only shingles vax approved in the U.S., and now, the CDC is recommending everyone older than 60 receive the vaccine.

Shingles, which stems from the same virus as chickenpox, can develop later in life as a person's immune system weakens. The illness causes blisters and a burning or throbbing pain in the skin's nerve endings. "The risk of developing shingles during a lifetime is about 30 percent," study co-author Rafael Harpaz says in a release. "Although that trial was well done, one cannot be sure a vaccine works outside a research setting until you evaluate it in routine medical practices. In addition, our study also provided new information that the vaccine worked to prevent shingles involving the eye, which can result in very serious complications."

The study examined 75,761 vaccinated and 227,283 unvaccinated patients via Kaiser Permanente in Southern California. It was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

- read the Kaiser release
- and see Bloomberg's coverage