Mary O’Rourke and Marty Whelan officially launch Shingles Awareness campaign

Mary O’Rourke and Marty Whelan, officially launched the Have You Heard About Shingles? Awareness campaign.

New Irish research highlights low levels of knowledge of Shingles among adults aged 50 and over who are at an increased risk

The majority of people aged 50 and over in Ireland have poor knowledge of shingles, according to new research supported by Sanofi Pasteur MSD, Age Action, Chronic Pain Ireland and the Patients’ Association of Ireland. The results of the research were launched today by DJ Marty Whelan and former politician, Mary O’Rourke, who are highlighting the need to spread the message as part of the “Have you heard about Shingles?” campaign.

The research discovered that while all Irish adults aged 50 and over are aware of shingles, most have a limited knowledge of it1. Knowledge levels among both males and females are low. However females are more than twice as likely to know a lot more about shingles than males, at 25% compared to just 12%1. Just 19% of respondents were aware that you cannot catch shingles from someone with chickenpox and only eight per cent knew that you cannot develop shingles unless you previously have had chickenpox.1

Two out of three cases of shingles occur in people over 50 years of age, and the disease also tends to be more severe in older adults2. Almost half (49%) of those surveyed aged 50 and over who developed shingles have experienced moderate to extreme pain as a result of shingles1. Some 41% of the adults aged 50 and over who developed shingles said the pain they experienced lasted a few days, and 42% said the pain lasted a few weeks. Almost one in five sufferers (18%) experienced pain which lasted more than a month1.

The research also revealed that males are more likely to be unsure if they have developed shingles in the past1. Studies show that 95% of adults have had chickenpox, and are therefore potentially at risk of developing shingles3, and 1 out of 4 adults develop shingles in their lifetime4. The majority (92%) of Irish adults 50 and over would turn to their GP for further information about shingles1. Other popular channels of communication include pharmacies (59%) and online websites (53%)1.

Dr Johnny Loughnane, GP, Co Limerick, said, “This is extremely important research which shows a worryingly low level of awareness among those who are at risk. The majority of us had chickenpox when we were children, and if you had chickenpox as a child, you are at increased risk of developing shingles. It is reassuring that so many people aged 50 and over would turn to their GP, but the low levels of awareness are concerning. We recommend starting a conversation about shingles with neighbours, friends and family to raise awareness.”

Some 515 people aged 50 years and over took part in this research. Of these, 37% were from Dublin, 28% from the rest of Leinster, 24% from Munster, seven per cent from Connacht and three per cent Ulster.

Mr John Lindsay, chairman, Chronic Pain Ireland, said, “Shingles can cause extreme pain and in order to avoid this, we urge people to talk to their healthcare professional about shingles prevention, treatment or long-term care. Shingles can lead to a condition known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) which is an extremely painful condition and difficult to treat.”

Mr Justin Moran, Head of Advocacy and Communications at Age Action, said, “The chance of developing shingles increases as we get older as well as the severity of the condition. We ask people to watch out for the symptoms of shingles, which is a very painful and debilitating illness.”

Stephen McMahon, Irish Patients’ Association, said, “It is a positive sign that all Irish adults over 50 have heard of shingles, however it is worrying that the vast majority don’t know anything about the condition. Those at risk of shingles should take note of this research, talk to their healthcare professional, and spread the message.

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