Shingles can cause significant pain and, in some rare instances, can be life-threatening.
This week (February 28 – March 6) marks the first ever global Shingles Awareness Week, which resulted from a collaboration between GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the International Federation on Ageing (IFA). The goal of Shingles Awareness Week is to grow the understanding of the impact of the virus and to dispel common misconceptions regarding the risks of infection.
"As a global advocate for ageing populations, we are delighted to collaborate on this worldwide effort to increase awareness of shingles and help adults understand the risks and complications associated with this painful disease,” said Jane M Barratt, PhD, IFA secretary general, in a press release.
More than 90% of adults 50 years of age and older carry the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), which is the virus that causes shingles.1 Further, 1 in 3 adults throughout the Asia-Pacific region will develop shingles in their lifetime.2
Despite these facts, a global survey of 2509 participants in multiple countries found that on average, just 7% of individuals over 50 years of age believe they are at risk of developing the virus in the next 10 years.3
The survey showed that the top 3 reasons cited regarding a perceived low risk of contracting shingles were "I won't get it," "I have a healthy lifestyle," and "I already had shingles in the past."
Shingles is caused by the reactivation of VZV, which nearly all adults 50 years of age and over have lying dormant in their sensory nervous system, and can reactivate with advancing age.
The virus typically presents as a rash and can be accompanied by painful blisters across the chest, abdomen, and face. The pain associated with shingles is frequently severe and can be a burning, shooting, or stabbing sensation. Once the rash is gone, some patients can experience post-herpetic neuralgia, which can persist for several months to years.4
The collaboration between GSK and the IFA seeks to encourage adults to consult their physicians and to learn more about appropriate early management and preventative measures to lower the risk of developing shingles, specifically vaccination.
"Adult vaccination is key, especially in countries with ageing populations. There are many diseases that are preventable with vaccines, and shingles is one of them. It is a cause of much pain, can be debilitating, and in some rare instances, even life-threatening,” said Dr Carol Tan Yean Eng, Specialist in Geriatrics, The Good Life Medical Center at Mount Alvernia Hospital, in a press release. “Vaccination against shingles for seniors is important and has been in place for many years in other countries. Prevention against shingles and other infectious diseases is a key component of healthy ageing."
1. Bricout H, et al. Herpes zoster-associated mortality in Europe: a systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2015;15:466. [Based on studies from Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and England/ Wales].
2. Chen L.K.,Pinchinat S, et al.., Looking back to move forward: a twenty-year audit of herpes zoster in Asia-Pacific. BMC Infectious Diseases, 2017; 17: 213
3. Ipsos MORI, https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/adult-perceptions-of-shingles-risk A5a. To what extent do you personally feel at risk – if at all – of getting shingles (again) in the following time periods? Question asked on a 7 point scale. Base: Total (n=2509), Belgium (n=300), Netherlands (n=150), Sweden (n=150), Australia (n=300), UK *n=300), Hong Kong (n=108), Austria (n=300), Denmark (n=300), Finland (n=301), Germany (n=300). Last accessed: 22nd December 2021.
4. Kawai K et al. Systematic review of incidence and complications of herpes zoster: towards a global perspective. BMJ Open 2014;4(6):e004833.