First-ever Shingles Awareness Week highlights misconceptions about the risk of developing shingles among older adults, and the need for more education

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  • GSK has launched the inaugural Shingles Awareness Week to educate the general public about shingles in collaboration with the International Federation on Ageing

  • Over 90% of adults, above the age of 50, already carry the virus that causes shingles, and 1 in 3 adults will develop shingles in their lifetime

  • Yet, in a global survey of adults aged 50 and above, on average only 7% believe they are at high risk of developing shingles

SINGAPORE, Feb. 28, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — GlaxoSmithKline, in collaboration with the International Federation on Ageing (IFA), is raising awareness on shingles through the first-ever global Shingles Awareness Week (February 28March 6).

Over 90% of adults aged 50 years and older already carry the virus that causes shingles[i],[ii],[iii], and 1 in 3 adults across the Asia-Pacific region will develop shingles in their lifetime[iv]. However, in a global survey conducted across multiple countries (N=2509), it was found that on average only 7% of people over the age of 50 believe they are at risk of developing shingles in the next 10 years[v].

The objective of Shingles Awareness Week is to increase understanding of the impact of shingles and address the common misconceptions surrounding the risk of developing shingles. In the global survey, the top three reasons cited by individuals on their perceived risk of contracting shingles, ranked in order of highest to lowest, include:

Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chickenpox, usually in childhood. Nearly all adults aged 50 and over have the VZV dormant in their sensory nervous system, which may reactivate with advancing age[ii]. Shingles typically presents as an itchy rash, with painful blisters across the chest, abdomen and/ or face. The pain associated with shingles is often severe and described as burning, shooting or stabbing. Once the rash is gone, some patients can experience post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN)[vi], persistent neuropathic pain that can last for several months or even years.

Another objective of the Shingles Awareness Week 2022 is to encourage adults to speak to their doctors to learn more about appropriate early management and preventative steps they can take to reduce their risk of shingles.

Dr Carol Tan Yean Eng, Specialist in Geriatrics, The Good Life Medical Center at Mount Alvernia Hospital said: “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. 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.”

“It is also crucial in protecting vulnerable patients with comorbidities or who are immunocompromised. The Shingles Awareness Week will definitely help more individuals to be educated about the importance of the disease, as well as its preventative measures,” she added.

“We are delighted to be joining efforts with the International Federation on Ageing in kickstarting this Shingles Awareness Week”, said Dr Stephanie Ambrose, Country Medical Director, Singapore. “With this new initiative, we continue to show our commitment to supporting healthy ageing for Singaporeans through educating them on this preventable, painful condition, and empowering individuals to talk to their doctors about the disease.”

Jane M Barratt, Ph.D., Secretary General, IFA said: “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.”

Additional Background Information

About Shingles Awareness Week

Shingles Awareness Week (February 28March 6) is the first-ever global awareness week dedicated to shingles and the increased risk of developing shingles amongst adults. Jointly led by GSK and the International Federation on Ageing, this week has been set up to encourage conversations between older adults and their healthcare professionals about shingles, its management and preventative efforts that can curb the rate of shingles.

About Shingles

Shingles is caused by the reactivation of latent chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus, VZV). The individual lifetime risk of developing shingles is approximately 1 in 3 people[ii]. The risk of shingles and its complications increases with age and is most common in those aged 50 and over. People with immunosuppressive diseases or therapies are also at increased risk[vii].

Shingles typically presents as a painful, itchy rash that develops on one side of the body. Complications from shingles can include:

  • Post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN – persistent neuropathic pain, the most common complication occurring in up to 30% of shingles cases)[vi]

  • Herpes zoster ophthalmicus (HZO – occurring in up to 25% of shingles cases)[ii] including vision loss, scarring, stroke, secondary infection and nerve palsies[viii], [ix].

About GSK

GSK is a science-led global healthcare company with a special purpose: to help people do more, feel better, live longer. For further information please visit https://www.gsk.com/en-gb/about-us/.

References

[i] 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].

[ii] Harpaz R, Ortega-Sanchez IR, Seward JF; Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Prevention of herpes zoster: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR Recomm Rep. 2008 Jun;57(RR-5):1-30. [Based on recommendations in the United States of America].

[iii] Fatha N et al. Changing seroprevalence of varicella zoster virus infection in a tropical city state, Singapore. Int J Infect Dis. 2014;22:73–7. [Based on 2010 National Health Survey and a paediatric survey (2008 – 2010) conducted in Singapore].

[iv] 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.

[v] 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.

[vi] Kawai K et al. Systematic review of incidence and complications of herpes zoster: towards a global perspective. BMJ Open 2014;4(6):e004833.

[vii] Yawn BP, Saddier P, Wollan PC, St Sauver JL, Kurland MJ, Sy LS. A population-based study of the incidence and complication rates of herpes zoster before zoster vaccine introduction. Mayo Clin Proc. 2007;82(11):1341-9.

[viii] Tseng HF et al. J Infect Dis 2020;222:798-806.

[ix] Sreenivasan N et al. PLoS One 2013;8:e69156-e.

SOURCE GSK

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