Health Experts Urge Filipinos to Be Vigilant Against Shingles

(L-R): Archana Rajan, GSK Philippines Adult Vaccines Business Unit Director; Dr. Gio Barangan, GSK Philippines Country Medical Director; So Young Seo, GSK Philippines General Manager; Dr. Gaile Robredo-Vitas, Dermatologist; Dr. Rontgene Solante, Infectious Diseases Specialist; Richard Arboleda, GSK Philippines Communications and Government Affairs Head; Rachel Tongson, Adult Vaccines Marketing Manager, GSK Philippines

Health experts joined forces with global biopharma company GSK to launch a nationwide awareness campaign to educate the public on the risks, impact, and prevention of shingles, a debilitating viral infection. Often overlooked, shingles can lead to serious complications if not treated properly, particularly among older adults. The risk of shingles sharply increases at the age of 50.1

Shingles, also known as Herpes Zoster, is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus responsible for chickenpox.2 Anyone who has been exposed to the chickenpox virus may develop shingles, as the virus lies dormant in nerve tissue and can reactivate years later.3

The campaign aims to raise awareness about the disease, how it impacts quality of life and the importance of consulting a doctor for disease prevention. The initiative also seeks to correct misconceptions and provide reliable information straight from healthcare professionals and those who experienced the disease. 

Shingles causes a painful skin rash that often blisters and scabs over in 10 – 15 days.4-5 According to dermatologist Dr. Irene Robredo-Vitas “karamihan talaga ng may shingles ang unang una talagang nakakakita ay mga dermatologist”.

Beyond a rash, there is a significant chance that shingles can lead to serious complications.6 About 30% of patients with shingles will experience long-term nerve pain.6 One out of four patients with shingles can get infected near the eye which may lead to blindness in some cases.7

Infectious Diseases Specialist, Dr. Rontgene Solante, discussed the burden of the disease.

According to an infectious diseases specialist, Dr. Rontgene Solante, “shingles is not just an ordinary rash. It has complications that can lead to higher morbidity. It can lead to depression, anxiety, and it can also affect your vision. He further added “a characteristic of shingles is that may tumutubo na mga rashes in one side of the body lang, but the more important characteristic is — ito ay napakasakit. It’s very uncomfortable to the point na yung iba, nahirapan silang mag damit, nahihirapan sila gawin housework nila, daily chores nila because of the severe pain.”

One of the guest panelists, Karen Davila, a renowned journalist and shingles sufferer, shared her story to stress the importance of shingles awareness “I have had it twice. I felt depressed, scared, and honestly ashamed. I would not want anybody to experience that.”

(L-R): Host, Issa Litton; Infectious Diseases Specialist, Dr. Rontgene Solante; Dermatologist, Dr. Gaile Robredo-Vitas; and Geenette Garcia, Suffered from Shingles 4-times; during the panel discussion of “Sabi Nila: The Truth About Shingles” media launch. 

There are myths and misconceptions surrounding shingles, and one of them is that it is a sexually transmitted disease. According to Dr. Rontgene Solante, “hindi sexually transmitted ang shingles. because the shingles virus is the same virus that causes chickenpox. When you get older, your immune system goes down and that’s when the chickenpox virus reactivates and can become shingles.”

No matter how healthy an individual feels, when age 50 or older, one is at risk because the immune system declines with age. Thus, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional about shingles prevention today. 

The shingles awareness campaign seeks to arm the public with knowledge through educational materials from health experts. This effort also aims to dispel myths and provide accurate, reliable information, enabling Filipinos to make informed decisions about their health.

Consult your doctor for more information about shingles, and visit www.whatisshingles.ph to learn more. 

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