Epidemiology and Infection


Herpes zoster in Australia: evidence of increase in incidence in adults attributable to varicella immunization?

A. JARDINEa1a2 c1, S. J. CONATYa1 and H. VALLYa2

a1 Public Health Unit, Sydney South West Area Health Service, Camperdown, New South Wales

a2 National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory


Rates of herpes zoster (HZ) hospitalizations, antiviral prescriptions, and New South Wales emergency-department presentations for age groups <20, 20–39, 40–59 and ≥60 years were investigated. Trends were analysed using Poisson regression to determine if rates increased following funding of varicella immunization in Australia in November 2005. The regression analysis revealed significantly increasing trends of between 2% and 6% per year in both antiviral prescriptions and emergency-department presentations in all except the <20 years age group. When considered together, the differential changes in rates observed by age group provides preliminary evidence to indicate that HZ incidence is increasing in adults aged >20 years. However, it is not possible to attribute the increasing trends in HZ observed directly to the varicella immunization programme, and continued monitoring and analyses of data for a longer duration, both pre- and post-vaccine introduction, is required.

(Accepted July 21 2010)

(Online publication August 23 2010)


c1 Author for correspondence: Dr A. Jardine, Queensland Health, Development & Information Unit, PO Box 2368, Fortitude Valley, Queensland, 4006, Australia (Email: andrew_jardine@health.qld.gov.au