By Glenn Wickman •
Published: 03 Mar 2023 • 17:46
Image by Photohasan/Shutterstock
According to a study by Eurosurveillance, the journal published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the surge in hospitalisations for shingles in Spain constitutes “a public health problem that must be prioritised” by the healthcare authorities.
Sanidad has announced plans to vaccinate over-65s and immunosuppressed patients, the two groups in danger of developing more severe health complications from the infection also known as herpes zoster.
Shingles are caused by the chickenpox virus that remains latent in the body following an initial infection, and which reactivates when the person becomes immunosuppressed.
Given that this condition mainly affects older patients, the surge in cases registered gradually in Spain and other European countries is said to be mainly due to the progressive ageing of the population.
Speaking to Eldiario.es, National Epidemiology Centre investigator Josefa Mas explained: “Our percentage of elderly population is steadily increasing, which explains the rise in hospitalisations.”
Official statistics show that in 1998 there were 6.5 million people aged over 64; in 2018, the figure had climbed to 8.9 million.
In addition, it is thought that up to 90 per cent of the population in warm countries catches shingles at some point in their lives.
Shingles manifests as a painful rash on the chest and stomach that can spread to other parts of the body. The rash typically lasts for two to four weeks, but in immunosuppressed patients can trigger postherpetic neuralgia, a long-term complication causing pain for up to three months and the cause for most hospital admissions.
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Glenn has been working on English-language newspapers in Alicante Province for more than 16 years. He currently writes the local news and Social Scene events for the Costa Blanca North and Mallorca editions of the Euro Weekly News.
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