Why do people experience more infections with herpes virus after vaccination against or infection with COVID?
Why do people experience more infections with herpes virus after vaccination against or infection with COVID?
Over the past few months, rumours are spreading on how more and more people experience a surge of shingles after having been vaccinated. While health agencies deny there's an actual relationship, other more critical researchers aren't so sure.
Therefore we decided it was time to investigate why and how we get infected with a herpes virus as well as what we can do about it.
Your immune system is a fascinating, interconnected network. It protects you from millions of harmful bacteria, microbes, viruses, toxins and parasites, yet most people often don’t give it a second thought.
At the break of skin and the openings of your mouth and nose, it is the border patrol. If invaders do get inside your body, it sends out lines of defense, whether in the blood, organs, muscles or bones.
This internal police force is vital to life, though sometimes it does get overzealous. When this happens, the immune system can work against us, causing allergic reactions or at its worst, autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis.
At other times, it weakens, fails and becomes ineffective.
Why does this happen? What turns the volume of your immune system up or down?
Common questions about what happens when your immune system falters.
What happens when your immune system fails?
Think of how many times you come into contact with someone who has a cold or the flu. Imagine how often your immune system fights off those germs and keeps you in the pink. But what if, instead, every one of those illnesses gained a foothold in your body? You might go from one illness to another, without ever recovering in between.
When the failure is severe, you will see more complications from those illnesses and infections, and you’ll recover much more slowly. Instead of bouncing back within days or a week, you could suffer for several weeks or months.
When your immune system fails completely, you’re left without any natural protection against illness. This leaves you open to “opportunistic infections” — sicknesses that can even come from things that ordinarily wouldn’t harm you. These can include recurrent pneumonia, herpes simplex and tuberculosis among other infections.
People who are immunocompromised, such as those with HIV, fall into this last group. This makes certain types of cancer, such as lymphoma, more likely.
What happens with an overactive immune system?
In many cases, an immune system that overreacts is as harmful and dangerous as one that stops working.
In general, an overactive immune system leads to many autoimmune disorders — because of hyperactive immune responses your body can’t tell the difference between your healthy, normal cells and invaders. In essence, your immune system turns against you.
What conditions can arise from an overactive immune system?
Common conditions caused by an overactive immune system include:
- rheumatoid arthritis: Your immune system attacks your joints, leading to inflammation, redness, pain and stiffness. Over time, your joints can become deformed and you can lose function.
- multiple sclerosis: Your immune system destroys the fatty layer that surrounds and protects your nerves from damage. Without it, you’re vulnerable. As this disease progresses, it attacks your brain, spine and eyes, causing problems with your balance, muscle control, vision and other bodily functions.
- celiac disease: With this condition, when you eat gluten your immune system attacks the small intestines, damaging the finger-like projections (called villi) that help your body absorb nutrients.
Other autoimmune conditions include:
- lupus (affects skin, joints and blood cells)
- vasculitis (affects blood vessels)
- Sjögren’s syndrome (causes dry eyes and dry mouth)
- inflammatory bowel syndrome (affects the digestive tract)
- chronic fatigue syndrome (causes sleep abnormalities and pain)
What causes immune system failure?
Doctors still don’t know exactly why the immune system sometimes fails. But, there are clues to how it happens. The immune system is an integrated network that’s hard-wired into your central nervous system. When it’s healthy, everything works automatically.
But, things go haywire when the system starts to crumble. For example, if you don’t sleep well and get stressed out, your body will produce more of the stress hormone cortisol.
Over time, high cortisol levels can have a degenerative effect on your body. Healthy bone and muscle break down and slow the healing process. Cortisol can interfere with digestion and metabolism, as well as adversely affecting your mental functions.
How can you help your immune system?
Though we don’t always know exactly why an immune system fails, we do know that adopting healthy habits can help keep your immune system ticking along well and always ready for defensive action.
A healthy diet, regular exercise, getting enough sleep and managing stress all can help. These steps help support good cardiovascular health, which, in turn, contributes to a healthy immune system.
COVID-19 vaccination reactivates highly contagious virus: studies reports of people being diagnosed with shingles on the riseDoctors and scientists are seeing an increase in the reactivation of the chickenpox virus,officially known as varicella-zoster virus (VZV), following the COVID-19 injections.
The chickenpox virus is one of the eight herpes viruses known to infect humans. After a person contracts and recovers from chickenpox, the virus never leaves the body but lies dormant in the nervous system for life.
The chickenpox virus will show up as shingles, or herpes zoster (HZ) when it gets reactivated.
US health authorities claim that there’s no correlation between COVID-19 injections and shingles, but studies show that there is a higher incidence of shingles in people who’ve received the vaccine.
Israel was among of the first countries to publish a case series of women with an autoimmune disorder who developed shingles 3 to 14 days after receiving the first or second dose of Pfizer COVID-19 shot.
The authors hoped that publishing the case series would raise awareness to a potential causal link between COVID-19 vaccination as a trigger of herpes zoster (HZ) reactivation in relatively young patients with stable autoimmune inflammatory rheumatic diseases.
In a different case study from Taiwan, researchers reported three healthy men ages 71, 46, and 42 who developed shingles two to seven days following the first dose of the Moderna or AstraZeneca COVID-19 injection.
The researchers believe there might be a link between COVID-19 vaccine and HZ emergence, because of the short delay of onset after vaccination. The other reason is that these three patients were immunocompetent (not suffering from any auto-immune disease).
The largest study to date, of more than two million patients, found that there was a higher incidence of shingles among the vaccinated (who received a COVID-19 shot within 60 days) than in the unvaccinated cohort, who were diagnosed with shingles within 60 days of visiting a healthcare office for any other reason.
According to the researchers, the risk of developing shingles was calculated as 0.20 percent for the vaccinated group and 0.11 percent for the unvaccinated, and the “difference was statistically highly significant.”
“Reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus appears to be a potential adverse drug reaction to COVID-19 vaccines, at least for mRNA LNP-based formulations,” the authors wrote, adding that “vaccination against COVID-19 seems to potentially raise the risk of precipitating herpes zoster.”
Dr. Richard Urso, an American ophthalmologist, and drug design and treatment specialist mentioned in April 2022 how of the three to five patients he sees a week with long COVID or problems after receiving the COVID-19 shot, a huge number of them have reactivated Epstein-Barr, herpes simplex, herpes zoster, or cytomegalovirus.
Regardless of the rise in reports of shingles after the rollout of the COVID-19 shots, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) claims that it has not detected any safety signal between the two.
“FDA has not seen a safety signal for shingles/herpes zoster following administration of the approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccines,but will continue to closely monitor the safety of these vaccines.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also alleges that “there is no current connection” between COVID-19 vaccines and the reactivation of the chickenpox virus.
However, a Pfizer’s safety document released in March 2022 mentions how shingles or herpes zoster is one of the adverse events of special interest to look out for following a COVID-19 shot.
Adverse events of special interest (AESI) are side effects—that can be severe or not but can lead to a serious medical condition—that health care practitioners should look out for following vaccination.
The medical conditions in the list does not mean that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine causes all of those.
The list of medical conditions is not specific to only Pfizer, but to all COVID-19 vaccines administered globally. Anyone who’s received a COVID-19 injection and then diagnosed with a disorder on the list—whether months or years after the shot—should make a report to the vaccine maker or Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS).
The earliest reports made to VAERS of people developing the painful rash after their COVID-19 shot was in December 2020. According to the latest VAERS data as of early June 2022, there were 1.301 million total COVID-19 reports in the database, of which, 13,887 cases were of shingles.
The CDC says that VAERS reports do not necessarily mean that the vaccine caused the adverse effect.
TreatmentShingles is characterized by a painful, stripe-like rash or small blisters that usually appear on one side of the body or face.
Many individuals with shingles experience one or more of the following symptoms: burning and shooting pain; fluid-filled blisters; skin that itches, tingles, or is numb; and fever, chills, headache, or upset stomach.
The disease usually resolves in two to four weeks after the blisters develop, but some people may develop complications such as persistent nerve pain known as post-herpetic neuralgia, vision or hearing loss, and Ramsay Hunt Syndrome which causes facial paralysis.
When the rash is in the blister stage, people with shingles can spread the virus to those who have not yet had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine.
The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases says that about 1 million Americans develop shingles each year and “half of the population who lives to 85 years of age will experience shingles during their lifetime.”
It’s not clear what triggers the reactivation of the chickenpox virus, but the most significant risk factor for shingles is an immune system that is weakened or compromised. If your immune system isn’t performing properly, the chickenpox virus can reactivate.
Extreme stress, old age, taking immunosuppressive drugs, or certain diseases and vaccines are factors that may increase the risk of shingles.
While the risk of getting shingles goes up for people aged 50 and older, studies have shown that shingles may also occur in young, healthy people after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Typically, shingles is never a primary process, it’s usually a secondary process. It’s something compromising the immune system leading them to develop shingles.
Treatment for shingles should begin immediately after the rash appears and consists of one of the three FDA-approved antivirals to “shorten the length and severity of the illness” and nerve pain medications, the CDC says. Cold, wet compresses, calamine lotion, and colloidal oatmeal baths may also help relieve itching.
Shingles may also be treated with supplements such as lysine, quercetin, and vitamin D (when taken early).
The ratio of lysine to arginine in a person’s body is particularly important when it comes to shingles.
The spreading of shingles requires the virus to multiply, and the amino acid arginine that helps the herpes virus replicate. Lysine interferes with arginine and helps prevent herpes from spreading.
Lysine and arginine are essential amino acids that are needed to help the body build proteins. Unlike arginine, the body cannot produce lysine on its own and can only be obtained from certain foods or with supplementation. During a shingles outbreak, it’s advisable to avoid foods that are high in arginine like nuts and seeds, tofu, and chocolate, among other foods.
Quercetin—a natural pigment (flavonoid) found in many vegetables, fruits, and grains, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects “that might help reduce swelling, kill cancer cells, control blood sugar, and help prevent heart disease. Quercetin suppresses viral replication in shingles.
Vitamin D acts as an effect-modifier for the entire herpes zoster spectrum with regard to disease susceptibility, manifestation, the efficacy of pharmacologic management, and emergent complications during treatment.
Studies have shown that vitamin D has important functions beyond just bone health, which include regulating immune function and inflammation.
Besides lysine, quercetin, and vitamin D, it is a good idea to take take probiotics like lactobacillus to help improve your immune system.
Probiotics such as lactobacillus may help to treat herpes by boosting your body’s immune system. Special peptides are found in lactobacillus and are essential in inducing a rapid immune response in your body. Once activated, the immune system can do its job of protecting your body.
People who are having symptoms of shingles should consult with their doctor about what treatment would best suit them. Those who experience shingles on the face should seek immediate medical attention.
The CDC recommends the shingles vaccine for older people aged 50 and older and adults 19 and older, who have weakened immune systems because of disease or therapy, to prevent the disease.