Herpes zoster (HZ) is a viral disease characterized by a dermatologic and neurologic involvement caused by the reactivation of the latent varicella zoster virus (VZV) acquired during primary infection (varicella). HZ incidence increases with age and is related to waning specific cell-mediated immunity (CMI). The most frequent complication of HZ is post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) characterized by chronic pain lasting at least 30 days, with impact on patients' quality of life. Available treatments are quite unsatisfactory in reducing pain and length of the disease. The evaluation of the epidemiology, the debilitating complications (PHN), the suboptimal available treatments and the costs related to the diagnosis and clinical/therapeutic management of HZ patients have been the rationale for the search of an adequate preventive measure against this disease. The target of this intervention is to reduce the frequency and severity of HZ and related complications by stimulating CMI. Prevention has recently become possible with the live attenuated vaccine Oka/Merck, with an antigen content at least 10-fold higher than the antigen content of pediatric varicella vaccines. Clinical studies show a good level of efficacy and effectiveness, particularly against the burden of illness and PHN in all age classes. Accordingly to the summary of the characteristics of the product the zoster vaccine is indicated for the prevention of HZ and PHN in individuals 50 years of age or older and is effective and safe in subjects with a positive history of HZ.
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