Low Risk of Shingle Re-occurence in Elderly

August 16, 2012
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Shingles is a skin irritation disease that is caused by the same virus as the chicken pox. It is usually triggered by emotional stress, immune deficiency, cancer, or other illnesses and factors that can be related to aging, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Shingles is a skin irritation disease that is caused by the same virus as the chicken pox. It is usually triggered by emotional stress, immune deficiency, cancer, or other illnesses and factors that can be related to aging, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Because the chicken pox virus never leaves the body, anyone who contracted the disease in childhood is at risk for shingles later in life. New research suggests that elderly adults who have had a single episode of shingles have a relatively low short-term risk for coming down with the painful skin condition again, regardless of vaccination status.
 
The CDC has recommended that adults aged 60 and over be vaccinated against shingles.

More than 43 million adults are at risk for the disease, and roughly 500,000 seniors contract it every year, according to the CDC. Merck & Co. Inc’s vaccine Zostavax has been shown to reduce the occurrence of shingles in seniors by up to 69% in some age groups.


“This study’s findings are important because we found that the risk of having a recurrent shingles episode is not as high as previous research indicates,” Kaiser Permanente researcher Hung-Fu Tseng, Ph.D., said. “We now have empirical data that show the risk of recurrence is low among an elderly population who did not have compromised immune systems, regardless of their vaccination status.”
 
Led by Tseng, investigators analyzed health records of more than 6,000 people over the age of 60 who had cases of shingles, and then monitored the patients over a two-year follow up period to look at recurrence. At the conclusion of the follow-up period, researchers observed fewer than 30 recurrent cases of shingles, and very little difference in the rate of recurrence among vaccinated and un-vaccinated participants.