December 13, 2007

Shingles Also Prevalent Among Healthy

A U.S. study challenges the conventional wisdom that shingles primarily affects adults with weakened immune systems.

The study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, found more than 92 percent of the study subjects with shingles did not have any conditions like cancer or other serious illnesses that affected their immune system.

Overall, our data suggests that researchers and physicians also need to consider preventing shingles in people ages 50 to 59, study leader Dr. Barbara Yawn of Olmsted Medical Center in Rochester, Minn., said in a statement. Future research is needed to understand the risk of recurrence of shingles to better advise people who previously had shingles about the value of receiving the shingles vaccine.

The shingles vaccine can prevent shingles -- a sometimes painful viral infection, often with a rash in people who have had chicken pox -- in about 61 percent of those vaccinated. In those vaccinated, the vaccine typically reduces the severity of the outbreak and the risk for developing lingering nerve pain.

The researchers calculated that shingles affects at least one in every 278 U.S. adults each year. The data also showed that shingles is even more common among those ages 50 to 59 -- affecting about one in 24 each year.