New research shows Australians underestimating risk and impact of shingles

GSK Australia

Interrupted by Shingles: are you aware of your risk of developing shingles?

Medical experts, patients and high-profile Australians are partnering to help raise community awareness about shingles. Interrupted by Shingles seeks to educate the community about the signs, symptoms and risk factors of shingles.

Shingles typically presents as an itchy rash, with painful blisters across the chest, abdomen or face. The pain associated with shingles is often described as burning, shooting or stabbing. Around 120,000 new cases of shingles occur each year in Australia.1

Dr Sarah Chu, GP with an interest in shingles, says that for Australians aged 50 years and over the risk of developing shingles may be higher than they believe.

“Up to 1 in 3 Australians risk developing shingles in their lifetime and up to 99.5% of adults 50 years and over carry the virus that can cause shingles,” says Dr Chu.2-4

“The virus that causes shingles comes from within the body, so public health measures like social distancing or mask wearing don’t impact rates of shingles. As we get older our immune system starts to decline and this can lead to the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, causing shingles. This is the same virus that also causes chickenpox.”

Dr Jana Pittman, Olympic Athlete, Mum and Doctor, says that she witnessed her mother experience shingles and how it can interrupt the lives of people affected and their loved ones.

“It was really difficult to see my mother experience the terrible pain of shingles for nearly five weeks,” says Jana.

“She wasn’t even able to wear clothes because the touch of them on her skin would cause too much pain. It really disrupted her life – she couldn’t have any visitors, help look after her grandchildren or even do basic things like going to the shops.”

However, some Australians aged 50 and over may be unaware of their risk of developing shingles and its potential impact on their quality of life.

In a new survey commissioned by GSK Australia, a sample group of 300 Australians aged 50-79 were asked about their knowledge and personal risk of developing shingles.5

  • Only 8% of survey respondents believe they are at risk of shingles in the next 12 months, 15% in the next 5 years and 19% in the next 10 years.5
  • The survey data also suggests there is a gap between Australian’s knowledge of shingles and their actions. While 75% of survey respondents say they understand that shingles is a serious disease, only 16% of respondents in their 50s and 22% in their 60s have discussed shingles with their GP.5
  • Additionally, only half the survey respondents (53%) say they believe the disease could have a negative impact on quality of life.5 However, up to 25% of people with shingles may develop post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), a complication of shingles that can result in persistent nerve pain for months or years after the initial shingles rash resolves.4,6,7

“Shingles can be a debilitating condition, so it’s really important that people who may be at higher risk, such as people aged 50 and over, talk to their healthcare professional,” says Dr Chu.

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