In a study from GSK in Belgium, scientists found that adults aged 50 years or older have an increased risk of developing shingles after a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Shingles are also called herpes zoster. It is a disease caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus. It causes a painful blistering rash.
Shingles is a serious disease because it can cause severe nerve pain that can last for months.
It can also lead to serious eye problems, including blindness; pneumonia; hearing problems; swelling of the brain, and death.
In the study, the team compared the incidence of herpes zoster in those aged 50 years and older diagnosed with COVID-19 and those never diagnosed with COVID-19.
A total of 394,677 individuals with COVID-19 were matched to 1,577,346 individuals without COVID-19 by age, sex, herpes zoster risk factors, and health care cost level.
The researchers found that the risk for herpes zoster was increased for people diagnosed with COVID-19 versus those without. The increased risk was more pronounced after COVID-19 hospitalization.
This is the first epidemiological evidence linking prior COVID-19 infection with increased shingles risk among older adults, who are already at heightened risk of shingles due to age-related decline in immunity.
The team says that it is important that health care professionals are aware of this potential increased risk so patients can be diagnosed and treated early if they develop shingles following COVID-19.
These results also highlight the importance of preventative measures, such as vaccination, to protect the health and well-being of older adults who are at risk for vaccine-preventable diseases like COVID-19 and shingles.
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The research was published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases and conducted by Amit Bhavsar et al.
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