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Shingles Awareness: Vital Advice for Filipinos from Health Experts

The shingles awareness campaign seeks to arm the public with knowledge through educational materials from health experts.

Health experts, in partnership with global biopharma company GSK, are launching a nationwide crusade to illuminate the shadows surrounding shingles—a viral infection that lurks menacingly, often under the radar. With a mission to inform, educate, and arm the public against this silent threat, the campaign endeavors to shed light on the risks, impact, and crucial prevention measures of shingles. The risk of shingles sharply increases at the age of 50.1

Shingles, scientifically termed Herpes Zoster, emerges from the varicella-zoster virus, the same cunning culprit behind chickenpox.2 Unlike its infamous counterpart, shingles is a stealthy foe that lies dormant in nerve tissue, resurfacing unexpectedly years later, often when least expected. It’s a revelation that anyone previously exposed to the chickenpox virus can fall victim to shingles, making awareness all the more paramount. Anyone who has been exposed to the chickenpox virus may develop shingles, as the virus lies dormant in nerve tissue and can reactivate years later.3

The campaign aims to raise awareness about the disease, how it impacts quality of life and the importance of consulting a doctor for disease prevention. The initiative also seeks to correct misconceptions and provide reliable information straight from healthcare professionals and those who experienced the disease. 

Shingles causes a painful skin rash that often blisters and scabs over in 10 – 15 days.4-5 According to dermatologist Dr. Irene Robredo-Vitas “karamihan talaga ng may shingles ang unang una talagang nakakakita ay mga dermatologist”.

Beyond a rash, there is a significant chance that shingles can lead to serious complications.About30% of patients with shingles will experience long-term nerve pain.6 One out of four patients with shingles can get infected near the eye which may lead to blindness in some cases.7

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According to an infectious diseases specialist, Dr. Rontgene Solante, “shingles is not just an ordinary rash. It has complications that can lead to higher morbidity. It can lead to depression, anxiety, and it can also affect your vision. He further added “a characteristic of shingles is that may tumutubo na mga rashes in one side of the body lang, but the more important characteristic is — ito ay napakasakit. It’s very uncomfortable to the point na yung iba, nahirapan silang mag damit, nahihirapan sila gawin housework nila, daily chores nila because of the severe pain.”

One of the guest panelists, Karen Davila, a renowned journalist and shingles sufferer, shared her story to stress the importance of shingles awareness “I have had it twice. I felt depressed, scared, and honestly ashamed. I would not want anybody to experience that.”

There are myths and misconceptions surrounding shingles, and one of them is that it is a sexually transmitted disease. According to Dr. Rontgene Solante, “hindi sexually transmitted ang shingles. because the shingles virus is the same virus that causes chickenpox. When you get older, your immune system goes down and that’s when the chickenpox virus reactivates and can become shingles.”

No matter how healthy an individual feels, when age 50 or older, one is at risk because the immune system declines with age. Thus, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional about shingles prevention today. 

The shingles awareness campaign seeks to arm the public with knowledge through educational materials from health experts. This effort also aims to dispel myths and provide accurate, reliable information, enabling Filipinos to make informed decisions about their health.

Consult your doctor for more information about shingles, and visit www.whatisshingles.ph to learn more. 

REFERENCES:
1 Kawai K et al, BMJ Open 2014
2 CDC, Clinical Overview (v1.0) 2019;1-6
3 Johnson RW, Therapeutic Advances in Vaccines 2015; 3;109-20
4 NCIRS, Zoster Vaccine for Australia Adults 2021 
5 AAD, Shingles: Tips for Managing 2019
6 CDC, Clinical Overview 2019;1-67 M. Panaligan, M. Rosario, R Zotomayor, G. Zamora, G. Bibera, A. Alejo, J. Javier, The Landscape of herpes zoster management and prevention in the Philippines; proceedings from two advisory boards, Human Vaccines & Immunotherpeutics 2023; 19:2

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