New campaign launched to raise awareness of shingles
Experts and high-profile Australians are rallying to help the community learn more about shingles (herpes zoster) via a new campaign to raise awareness of the signs, symptoms and risk factors of the viral disease.
The latest data from a study in general practice estimates that around 120,000 new cases of shingles occur each year, which accounts for approximately one in 1000 of all GP visits.1
Shingles symptoms vary between patients, but for some people it can be a painful and potentially debilitating condition. Shingles is triggered by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus) in adulthood and it is reported that up to 99.5% of adults ≥50 years of age already have the virus that can cause shingles.3,4
Up to 1 in 3 people risk developing shingles in their lifetime.4 While most people fully recover from shingles, some may experience complications.
Up to 25% of Australians with shingles may develop postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a complication of shingles that can result in persistent nerve pain for months or years after the initial shingles rash resolves.5-8
The new campaign will comprise TV commercials, radio spots, a new website (knowshingles.com.au) and Australian personalities to spread the word.
The campaign sees patients describe their shingles pain as being like “shocks shooting through your body.”
Peter Everett, the former host of Renovation Rescue and Ready Steady Cook, has his own experience of shingles.
“I had shingles for a month after the stress of Celebrity Apprentice a few years ago. The pain was truly awful and it was very difficult to sleep,” said Everett.
Infectious disease expert Professor Robert Booy says shingles can be extremely painful and an awareness campaign like this is long overdue given the potential impact of shingles.
“Too many Australians are still unaware of the early signs and symptoms related to herpes zoster,” said Professor Booy.
“Because the virus that causes shingles comes from within the body, public health measures like social distancing or mask wearing don’t impact rates of shingles. However, since the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles are the same, if a person who has never had or isn’t protected against chickenpox, comes into direct contact with the blisters of someone with shingles, they may get chickenpox.
“Given our immune systems decline as we get older, I encourage all adults from around the age of 50 years to be talking to their doctor about shingles.”
For more information about shingles, speak to your healthcare professional and visit knowshingles.com.au
Shingles (herpes zoster) is an illness caused by the varicella zoster virus. It occurs in people who have previously had or been exposed to chickenpox, when the virus is reactivated in the nerve tissue. People with shingles can experience a painful blistering rash. In most people, herpes zoster is a self-limiting disease and most people recover fully.
Post-herpetic neuralgia, a common complication of shingles (occurs in up to 25% of shingles cases), typically causes a persistent burning pain that can last over 3 months. Shingles occurs when the virus that’s already in your body reactivates so it cannot be passed from one person to another. However, since the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles are the same, if a person who has never had or isn’t protected against chickenpox, comes into direct contact with the blisters of someone with shingles, they may get chickenpox. Up to 99.5% of adults ≥50 years already have the virus that can cause shingles and up to 1 in 3 people risk developing shingles in their lifetime. The risk of shingles increases with age and is most common in those who are immunocompromised or aged 50 and older.6
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We work closely with leading local researchers and clinicians to ensure that Australian patients can access the latest global innovations, as they happen. We are committed to clinical data transparency and making our study results public, regardless of whether they reflect positively or negatively on our products. For further information please visit www.gsk.com/about-us.
The ‘Know Shingles’ campaign is sponsored by GSK Australia.
- MacIntyre CR, Stein A, Harrison C, Britt H, Mahimbo A, et al. Increasing Trends of Herpes Zoster in Australia. PLOS ONE 2015;10(6): e0129872. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0125025
- Forbes HJ, Thomas SL, Langan SM. The Epidemiology and prevention of Herpes Zoster. Epidemiology. 2012. Available at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13671-011-0004-4 (Accessed July 2021)
- Australian Department of Health. Adults who are seronegative to varicella-zoster virus are recommended to receive either varicella or zoster vaccine - Australian Immunisation Handbook. 2020. Available at: https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/recommendations/adults-who-are-seronegative-to-varicella-zoster-virus-are-recommended-to-receive (Accessed July 2021)
- Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention of herpes zoster: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). 2008 May;57 (RR-5 ):1-30
- Australian Government Department of Health. Zoster (herpes zoster) - Australian Immunisation Handbook. 2020. Available at: https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/vaccine-preventable-diseases/zoster-herpes-zoster#expand-collapse-all-top (Accessed July 2021)
- National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS). Herpes zoster factsheet. 2021. Available at: https://www.ncirs.org.au/sites/default/files/2021-07/Zoster%20vaccine%20for%20Australian%20adults%20fact%20sheet_19%20July%202021_Final.pdf (Accessed July 2021)
- Wehrhahn MC, Dwyer DE. Herpes zoster: epidemiology, clinical features, treatment and prevention. Australian Prescriber 2012;35:143-7.
- Kawai K, Gebremeskel BG, Acosta CJ. Systematic review of incidence and complications of herpes zoster: towards a global perspective. BMJ Open. 2014 Jun;4(6):e004833