Access for All Bi-Weekly Tip
For the weeks of December 3 - 14
Shingles, herpes zoster, is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus (the varicella-zoster virus). After having chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus retreats to nerve cells in the body, where it often lies dormant for many years. Like other members of the herpes family (such as the herpes simplex viruses that cause cold sores and genital herpes), the varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox never leaves the body.
Certain factors, such as stress, aging, or low immunity, can reactivate the virus and it begins to reproduce. The virus travels along the path of a nerve (where the virus "slept") to the skin's surface and becomes visible as shingles. Early shingles symptoms can include headache, fever, and chills. However, the most noticeable symptoms are blisters and pain. Shingles travels along a nerve path, causing pain and strange sensations. Shingles causes numbness, tingling, itching, or pain before a blistery rash appears. This rash appears as fluid-filled blisters. Because shingles occurs in an area of the skin that is supplied by sensory fibers of a single nerve, called a dermatome, the rash usually appears in a strip on one side of the body, typically the torso, face, nose, and eyes.
Shingles is not generally contagious but the varicella-zoster virus can spread to someone who has never had chickenpox. If a person hasn't had chickenpox and comes in contact with the infected person's blisters, they could develop chickenpox. The virus doesn’t spread after the blisters have formed crusty scabs. Once the blisters scab, they’re no longer contagious. The virus also doesn’t spread when the blisters are well-covered.
You can’t get shingles through contact with the saliva or nasal secretions of someone who has shingles, except in rare cases. That means you usually can’t get shingles if someone who has it coughs or sneezes on you.
Accommodating Employees with Shingles
The degree of limitation will vary among individuals. Be aware that not all people with shingles will need accommodations to perform their jobs and many others may only need a few accommodations. Staff with shingles should be able to continue to work in most areas if they feel well and the affected area can be adequately covered by clothing. However it should be noted that shingles can vary from very mild with no pain or discomfort to extremely painful and debilitating, and staff may need to take time off to recover.
What are employers' responsibilities?
What employers are expected to do should an employee be diagnosed with shingles depends largely on the type of workplace.
Quite simply, for the employee with shingles, taking sick leave or, if possible, teleworking from home is probably the optimum accommodation so that they can rest, and heal, more quickly.
In a purely adult, non-care setting, it may be useful for other team members who have had contact with the infected employee to be made aware. Colleagues who do not think that they have previously had chickenpox should be informed that they may develop the disease within 10 to 21 days. If they start to feel unwell within this time period it may be sensible to take time off as soon as symptoms begin (e.g. cold-like symptoms, high temperature) in order to reduce the risk of the disease spreading further.
Call Oklahoma ABLE Tech (800-257-1705) for accommodation ideas or to borrow assistive technology. ABLE Tech’s AT Device Demonstration and Short-Term Loan Program works just like a book library. Here are some devices that relate to this article:
Ergonomic T-Foam Seat Cushion
Ergonomic OBUS Seat Pad
Soft Transfer Swivel Cushion (use in car or home)
Uplift Power Seat
TV Remote - Voice Activated
Solutions for Decreased Stamina/Fatigue
Search Oklahoma ABLE Tech’s resources for reused AT and durable medical equipment*
including free and low cost items.
* where, for this particular illness, you could borrow a motorized wheelchair, if available
Need funding to assist in the purchase of assistive devices? Oklahoma ABLE Tech offers a comprehensive online guide for Oklahoma Funding for AT. Additionally, ABLE Tech, in partnership with Oklahoma Assistive Technology Foundation (OkAT) and BancFirst of Stillwater, offers Financial Loans to purchase assistive technology. Several programs of funding are available, all with LOW interest rate and flexible repayment terms, as well as special qualification opportunities for applicants who might not qualify for a traditional bank loan. For questions on the Financial Loan opportunities, call Shelley Gladden for more information at 800-257-1705.
Rob Carr, Accessibility Coordinator
Linda Jaco, Associate Director for Sponsored Programs