Researchers at the National Epidemiology Center he published a study in the journal Eurosurveillance on hospitalization for herpes zoster in Spain. They warn of the increase in income and highlight the importance of including this virus in the vaccination calendar, as is already the case in Castilla-La Mancha.
Researchers insist on the importance of vaccination
The varicella zoster virus (VZV) is a herpesvirus that causes two diseases, in both cases preventable thanks to vaccination. The first of these, chickenpox, usually occurs in childhood, and there is a vaccine that has been administered for years in children. The second disease is herpes zoster. And it arises because the same virus that caused chickenpox remains latent in the body. It reactivates and can cause this infection in adulthood.
What is herpes zoster
The shingles that is causing the increase in hospital admissions is characterized by a painful skin rash. In addition, it can sometimes be complicated by prolonged neuralgia, the so-called post-herpetic neuralgia, with encephalitis, pneumonia, hearing problems, and ocular complications with temporary or permanent loss of vision.
The ISCIII team has analyzed in this study the more than 65,000 cases of people hospitalized in Spain due to herpes zoster between 1998 and 2018. The data is registered in the hospital discharge database of the National Health System.
The results show that admissions for herpes zoster have increased in that period of time. But also that vaccination in Spain is well aligned with its clinical consequences. And it is that it has been confirmed that the most serious cases, in terms of mortality and hospital readmission, correspond to the specific population groups in which vaccination is recommended.
who is vaccinated
Vaccination against herpes zoster in Spain is recommended for groups of people with a weakened immune system. Specifically, transplant recipients, those affected by HIV and people receiving certain drugs to treat inflammatory diseases and cancer.
In addition, given the increase in cases and the risks in older people, this study supports the recommendation to vaccinate people over 65 years of age. A decision approved by the Public Health Commission of the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System last year, which is already being carried out. The authors point out that these data will facilitate the evaluation and orientation of vaccination recommendations in the coming years.
Zaida Herrador, Noemí López-Perea and Josefa Masa Calles, researchers at the National Epidemiology Center who have participated in the study, point out that the research “provides relevant and innovative information on various clinical aspects of herpes zoster, and they emphasize that this infection represents a public health problem in Spain that must be given priority, especially due to its growing incidence, its relationship with aging and its special severity in certain risk groups”. The gradual introduction of vaccination against herpes zoster will improve the epidemiology of this disease in Spain, as has already happened in other countries.
What happens in Castilla-La Mancha
In January, the Government of Castilla-La Mancha published the new vaccination schedule for the region. Among the novelties is the vaccination against herpes zoster for people who turn 65 and 80 years of age. It is foreseeable that this paradigm shift will soon reduce admissions for herpes zoster.