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Papers of the Week

2019 Jun

Prev Med Rep


Incidence of herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia in Italian adults aged ≥50 years: A prospective study.


Salvetti A, Ferrari V, Garofalo R, Gazzaniga P, Guerroni A, Metrucci A, Sessa A, Severi M L, Nati G, Ruggeri M, Rossi A, Cappellari L, Gopala K, Tosatto R, Simone B
Prev Med Rep. 2019 Jun; 14:100882.
PMID: 31193254.


Herpes zoster (HZ) mainly affects older adults and immunocompromised individuals and is usually characterized by a unilateral painful skin rash. Its most common complication, postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), may cause chronic debilitating pain lasting for months or years. This study (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01772160) aimed to estimate the HZ incidence and the proportion of HZ patients with PHN in the Italian population aged 50 years or older. From 2013 to 2016, HZ-patients were recruited when presenting with acute HZ at 75 reporting general practitioners in Italy, covering 43,875 persons aged ≥50 years. PHN was defined as 'worst pain' rated ≥ 3 on the Zoster Brief Pain Inventory persisting or appearing over 90 days after rash onset. The overall HZ incidence rate per 1000 person-years (PY) was estimated as 6.46 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 5.99-6.95), increasing with age to 9.12/1000 PY (95% CI: 7.50-10.99) in 75-79 year-olds. Among 391 HZ-patients who completed the study, the overall proportion with PHN was 10.23% (95% CI: 7.41-13.67) and the highest proportion was 15.56% (95% CI: 6.49-29.46) for the 75-79 year-olds. Among the 128 patients (32.7%) who reported at least one pre-existing medical condition, 35.9% reported diabetes mellitus and 32.0% reported emotional problems, stress or depression. The study confirms previous findings that HZ and PHN cause an important clinical burden in older Italian adults. It also confirmed the age-related increasing risk of HZ and PHN.