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  • Older people are encouraged to get vaccinated to prevent shingles

    Author: AAP

Australians aged 70-79 are being encouraged to get vaccinated to prevent serious conditions like shingles.

Older Australians are being warned of their high risk of developing painful shingles, as a survey reveals the over 70s are failing to prioritise their health.

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A survey of more than 1000 people aged 70-79 found 70 per cent were not aware of their increased risk of many serious conditions like shingles.

The Galaxy research also found more than half are drinking more alcohol than recommended and the majority are not eating a balanced diet (60 per cent).

Almost half (49 per cent) said they don't have an active lifestyle.

Geriatrician, Associate Professor Michael Woodward AM at Austin Health and University of Melbourne says the findings are concerning.

He says shingles is one serious condition that has the potential to rob the elderly of their quality of life but most people don't know much about it.

"Although there is no cure for shingles and we know one in three will develop shingles in their lifetime, 40 per cent of Australians aged 70-79 are not aware that there are government funded shingles prevention and treatment options," Prof Woodward said.

There is a vaccination available for shingles which is caused by the variclla zoster virus that causes chickenpox, he said.

The virus lays dormant in the nerves and can reactivate at any time, most commonly in older age.

It causes a blistering rash on one side of body, often accompanied by debilitating nerve pain.

"It's the pain that is associated with the virus travelling down the nerve that gives you most of the symptoms. That pain can last for years afterwards and that pain is the most disabling part of the disease."

Prof Woodward likened the pain to getting an intense electric shock.

"Even a breath of wind on their body affected by the shingles or light clothing can cause the most intense pain; it's like being electrocuted but constantly," Prof Woodward said.

Shingles can also cause paralysis, severe secondary infections and even increase a person's risk of stroke, said Prof Woodward.

He is warning against complacency and encouraged older people to put their health first, even before their grandchildren.

"Older people tend to be more complacent about their health than other age groups, at least with respect to diseases which can be prevented by vaccination," said Prof Woodward.


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