Getting to know shingles

Getting to know shingles

A new campaign is helping to raise awareness of the signs, symptoms and risk factors of shingles (herpes zoster).  

Infectious disease expert Professor Robert Booy said 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,” Professor Booy said.  

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. 

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 1,000 of all GP visits. 

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. 

Professor Booy said 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 

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