Prevalence of Shingles Worldwide

Herpes Zoster, also known as shingles is a debilitating condition that affects millions of patients globally, particularly older adults. Shingles causes suffering through acute and chronic pain, as well as Post-herpetic Neuralgia (PHN).

According to Dr. Edgar Hope-Simpson, one of the world’s best-recognized herpes zoster epidemiologists, herpes zoster is described as a fascinating disease as it arrives unpredictably and is difficult to explain.

With the serious effects of herpes zoster on an older global population, there is a need for a better understanding of shingles and how it can seriously affect people’s lives.

This article discusses some important points about shingles, including its incidence, severity, and prevention.

Incidence of Shingles

The incidence for herpes zoster in the United States is approximately 4 cases for every 1,000 U.S. citizens annually, with the rate of infection among senior citizens reaching an estimate of 10 cases for every 1,000.

1 out of 3 individuals in the United States will develop shingles during their lifetime, with the risk of contracting the disease getting higher as you age — more so after the age of 50. Although rare, shingles can also be acquired by children. There is no assurance of immunity following a case of shingles.


Postherpetic Neuralgia

Post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) is the most common complication of shingles, characterized by persistent pain after the rash resolves. It typically appears 1 to 3 months after the onset of the rash and can also last for more than a year.

According to estimates, as many as 1 in 5 people aged 50 and above could develop post-herpetic neuralgia as a complication of shingles.

Characteristics of PHN

● Constant or intermittent pain that is burning, aching, throbbing, stabbing, or shooting.

● Experience of allodynia or feeling pained from things that are not painful.

● Hypersensitivity to pain

Other Complications of Shingles:

● Eye problems

● Ramsay Hunt syndrome

● Bacterial superinfection of the lesions

● Scarring (white patches on the area of the rash)

● Cranial and peripheral nerve palsies

● Inflammation of the lungs or protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord


Out of the people who get infected by herpes zoster virus, about 1 to 4% are hospitalized due to complications and usually, these are the people who have weakened or suppressed immune systems such as older adults.


In the United States, there is approximately 96 shingles-related deaths that occur every year and almost all the deaths occur among elderly people or those with weakened immunity.

Shingles Vaccination

As the awareness on shingles increases and while the risk of contracting the disease goes higher as people age , the need for preventive measures for shingles also becomes more imminent.

Shingles vaccination has become a popular preventive measure to control the spread of shingles as it reduces the risk of contracting the disease. During the year 2012, 20.1% of adults (60 years and above) reportedly received the shingles vaccine, reflecting an increase compared 2011, where only 15.8% vaccinations reported. Although recommended for people 60 years and above, the vaccine can also be used for individuals who have had shingles to prevent future cases.

Worldwide Trends

Worldwide trends suggest that more adults throughout the United States, Europe, and the Asia Pacific are contracting shingles. Although the explanation behind the increase in shingles cases is unclear, there is a popular explanation that this could be related to widespread vaccination against chickenpox. Theories suggested that exposure to chickenpox may improve the immunity of an individual to the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) and even reduce the risk for VZV reactivation in the form of shingles.

The prevalence of shingles shows an increasing number of people who suffer from the condition globally. Luckily, measures are now taken to promote awareness and prevent the spread of disease.

Herpes Zoster is a disease that can bring serious complications among older people and people with compromised immunity. You wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy. Be aware of the medical developments and research that goes into stopping the disease. Act now to stay protected and help reduce the cases of shingles worldwide.

Was this article helpful? Do you have questions about shingles and how to prevent it? Got some useful insights that you want to share? We want to know your concerns. Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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