Shingles (also known as herpes zoster) results from infection by the varicella zoster virus. This common virus causes chickenpox (also known as varicella), which is characterized by itchy spots on the skin that cover the whole body and usually occurs in childhood or adolescence. After the body fights the initial infection, the varicella zoster virus remains in nerve cells for the rest of a person's life. Because the virus is controlled by immune system cells called T cells, it is generally inactive (latent) and typically causes no health problems. However, in some people, the virus becomes active again (reactivates) and causes shingles. Shingles can occur at any age, although it is rare in childhood and becomes more common after age 50.
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