As Nova Scotia's population continues to age so will the number of reported shingle cases, according to health officials.

Judy Howe, 65, woke up two years ago with an itchy red rash.

"It was like a living hell," she said.

"I was so sore. I was itchy. I couldn't sleep, couldn't stand properly, couldn't walk . It was just like you were lousy, like bugs were crawling all over you," she said.

Her doctor diagnosed her with shingles, something not uncommon for people over the age of 50.

 'It was like a living hell.' —Judy Howe

Anyone who has had chicken pox is at risk of developing shingles, but the likelihood and severity increase significantly with age.

Dr. Frank Atherton, the provinces deputy chief medical officer of health, said one in four Canadians is expected to get the virus.

"We're an aging population here in Nova Scotia so as the population ages the chances that we see more shingles does go up," he said.

"The virus is very clever. It can hide in people for many, many, years, for decades and then be reactivated and it's the virus coming back to life that causes the shingles."

Vaccine not covered

Health Canada approved a vaccine to help prevent the painful virus in people 60 or older in 2009.

It is not covered by provincial health insurance plans and costs about $150.

Atherton said Nova Scotia is urging patients to talk to their doctor before getting the vaccine.

Shingles, also called herpes zoster, causes a painful red rash and sensations of tingling, itching and burning. The rash can lead to scarring and the pain can persist in some people for months or years.

Howe said after having shingles, she'd gladly pay the $150 dollars to prevent the suffering.