Incidence of Shingles Up for Patients Aged 50 and Older With Past COVID-19 Diagnosis

Varicella zoster (chickenpox) virus, illustration. The virus consists of a lipid membrane envelope with glycoproteins, a protective capsid holding the nucleic acid. VZV is a virus from the Herpesviridae family, the causative agent of chickenpox and shingles. In severe cases VZV may cause complications, such as pneumonia and encephalitis.
For adults aged 50 years or older, those with a COVID-19 diagnosis have an increased risk for developing herpes zoster.

HealthDay News — For adults aged 50 years or older, those with a COVID-19 diagnosis have an increased risk for developing herpes zoster, according to a study published online March 9 in Open Forum Infectious Diseases.

Amit Bhavsar, M.B.B.S., from GSK in Wavre, Belgium, and colleagues 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 individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 versus those without (adjusted incidence rate ratio, 1.15). The increased risk was more pronounced after COVID-19 hospitalization (adjusted incidence rate ratio, 1.21).

“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,” Temi Folaranmi, M.D., vice president and vaccines therapeutic area head of U.S. Medical Affairs at GSK, said in a statement. “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.”

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the GSK group of companies.

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