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  • Herpes zoster, commonly known as shingles and also known as zona, is a viral disease characterized by a painful skin rash with blisters in a limited area on one side of the body, often in a stripe. The initial infection with varicella zoster virus causes the acute, short-lived illness chickenpox which generally occurs in children and young adults. Once an episode of chickenpox has resolved, the virus is not eliminated from the body and can go on to cause herpes zoster often many years after the initial infection. Herpes zoster is not the same disease as herpes simplex, despite the disease name similarity that stems from the original virus name herpes zoster virus, which ceased to be used when it was discovered to be the same virus as varicella zoster virus. Both the varicella zoster virus and herpes simplex virus belong to the same viral subfamily Alphaherpesvirinae. After the initial episode of chickenpox resolves, the varicella zoster virus remains latent in the nerve cell bodies and, less frequently, the non-neuronal satellite cells of the dorsal root, cranial nerve or autonomic ganglia, without causing any symptoms.

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