New Campaign Encourages GPs to Remind Older Patients They're 'Not Out of the Woods'

By Sophie Blackshaw
Tuesday, 23 September, 2014

A new campaign titled 'Not Out of the Woods', to be launched on September 23, will be encouraging general practitioners to talk to their more senior patients about the risk of contracting shingles and subsequent complications, including severe pain caused by postherpetic neuralgia, which can last for years.
The campaign will serve as a reminder to Australians over 60 that when it comes to shingles, otherwise known as the varicella-zoster virus, they're not in the clear just yet. The virus can be reactivated in adulthood and can manifest as herpes zoster, which affects about one in three Australians at some point in their life.
It's an important opportunity for GPs to idenfity and communicate with their older patients about receiving the correct vaccines, including the one for shingles.
The campaign will be arriving at an important time, given the nation's ageing population is increasing and long-term health complications will become more prevalent. At present, there are about 150,000 shingles cases around Australia, though that number is set to rise as people grow older.
Inspired by Little Red Riding Hood, the campaign will employ recognisable imagery form the classic tale with the wolf acting as a metaphor for shingles and the main character a vulnerable, aged citizen.
General practitioner Dr Rod Pearce, who has a special interest in immunisation, said that it's important for healthcare providers to educate older Australians and those who have influence over their health decisions.
“For many Australians over 60, their GP is the first port of call for health-related matters. Campaigns like this are excellent opportunities for GPs to have conversations with appropriate patients about shingles and to dispel misconceptions about the condition. The fact is, older patients aren’t ‘out of the woods’ yet in regard to the varicella zoster virus and reactivation has the potential to have severe, long lasting impact on their quality of life,” Dr Pearce said.
Preventative health measures for our older members of the population are extremely important as this age group is generally less likely to respond well to treatment.
Sharon McHale, Senior Director, Public Affairs at bioCSL, distributor of ZOSTAVAX* (zoster vaccine live [Oka/Merck]), the company that commissioned the campaign, said, “We are proud to support initiatives like ‘Out Of the Woods’ in an effort to increase awareness of adult preventative illnesses and the significance of a whole of life approach to immunisation".

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