GSK Australia recently commissioned a survey which has cast a spotlight on the lack of awareness surrounding shingles. The survey includes a sample group of 300 Australians, aged 50-79, and has uncovered incorrect misconceptions and knowledge gaps among surveyed participants, including the perception that having had chickenpox and leading a healthy lifestyle result in a low risk of shingles.1
Leading expert in geriatric medicine, Associate Professor Michael Woodward, encourages families to have open conversations with their loved ones and raise awareness about how painful and debilitating shingles can be.
“As we get older, especially when we reach 50, we’re more likely to become unwell. The last thing we need is to have the burden of shingles on top of other health challenges,” commented Associate Professor Woodward.
“It is also common these days for many Australians over 50, who are working part-time or retired, to be playing a role in the care of their grandchildren. Developing shingles means grandparents wouldn’t be in a position to help, not just for the duration of the disease but potentially for a longer period of time if they were to develop complications, and this can impact the whole family.”
Despite the fact that nearly all Australian adults 50 years and over carry the virus that causes shingles, and about 1 in 3 people will develop shingles in their lifetime,2,3,4 over a third of survey respondents who do not feel at risk of shingles, believe that a history of chickenpox means they are unlikely to be at risk of developing shingles in their lifetime.1
Shingles is a painful and potentially debilitating condition triggered by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus, usually during adulthood. Those who have had chickenpox already carry the virus that causes shingles.4
Former shingles sufferer, Karin, aged 60, reflects on her experience and the impact it had on her quality of life. “It was the worst thing I’ve ever had. It really disrupted my life for a long period of time.”
Another recent survey conducted by the Immunisation Coalition, which included over 23,500 Australians, also revealed that just over a quarter of respondents did not believe that shingles can have an important impact on their health.5
Shingles is more than just a rash and misunderstandings amongst those surveyed about the burden of the disease was noted in the GSK-sponsored survey. Some 43 per cent of participants do not consider shingles to have an extreme negative impact on their quality of life if they were to get it.1 Shingles also comes with the risk of post-disease complications like post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), which can result in persistent nerve pain that can last for months or years after the initial shingles rash resolves.6
The incidence of PHN increases with age, ranging from approximately 10% in people aged 50 to 59 years old to up to 20% in those aged over 80 years.2 The GSK-sponsored survey found that around a third of respondents who were aware of the risk of shingles, fail to recognise pain, burning, numbness or tingling on one part of the body as a symptom when prompted.1
Australians are urged to start conversations with their family and friends about their risk of developing shingles and if you are aged 50 or over, to speak with your healthcare professional about shingles.
For more information about shingles, speak to a healthcare professional and visit knowshingles.com.au.
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About the survey
On behalf of GSK, Ipsos conducted an online survey among 300 participants (aged 50-79 years old) who chose to take part in the survey from 18th April – 2nd May 2023. Participants were all screened to match national proportions based on region, gender and working situation. Respondents not open to receiving vaccinations that help prevent infectious diseases were excluded. Respondents who work in or have a close family member who works in either market research or the pharmaceutical industry were excluded. The sample is not nationally representative, only indicative.
1 IPSOS Shingles Awareness Survey May 2023. GSK Data on File REF-209419
2 Australian Therapeutic Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) 2020, Australian Immunisation Handbook. Zoster (herpes zoster). Available at https://immunisationhandbook.health.gov.au/vaccine-preventable-diseases/zoster-herpes-zoster. (accessed September 2023)
3 National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) Zoster vaccine for Australian adults fact sheet, updated May 2022. Available at: https://www.ncirs.org.au/ncirs-fact-sheets-faqs/zoster-vaccine-australian-adults
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prevention of herpes zoster: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR. 2008 May;57(RR-5):1-30.
5 Immunisation Coalition. General Population Survey (Aged 50+). Available at https://www.immunisationcoalition.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Over-50-Survey-Q1-2023-Immunisation-Coalition.pdf. (accessed September 2023)
6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About shingles: complications of shingles Complications of Shingles (Herpes Zoster) | CDC (accessed September 2023)
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