Television presenter Eamonn Holmes has urged Brits to take shingles seriously as he seeks to raise awareness of the virus following a ‘frightening’ experience five years ago.
The 63-year-old admitted he did not realise he had the condition until painful blisters started to develop on his face in 2018, the same year as his son’s wedding.
Holmes has teamed up with Janet Street-Porter and healthcare company GSK to highlight the expansion of the Shingles National Immunisation programme, which has opened to more people than ever across the UK since September 1.
In addition to people aged 70-79, who were already eligible, those turning 65 on or after 1 September 2023 and those 50 and over with a severely weakened immune system, now qualify for free shingles vaccinations on the NHS.
“It’s not something you want to get but it’s not something that is easily identifiable in the run up to getting it,” Holmes said.
“In my case the blisters affected my face, which is not particularly good, with the business that I’m in.
“There’s never a convenient time to get something like that, particularly on your face, and my son’s wedding was coming up.
“It was very disappointing, and it was very stressful. Of the things that could be wrong with me, shingles never came into my head.”
Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus, meaning 90% of the population, who have previously had chickenpox, are susceptible to shingles.
Holmes is determined to raise more awareness surrounding the condition after a 2022 survey revealed 36% of participants did not know that anyone who has previously had chickenpox could develop shingles in the future.
“What was particularly difficult for me was that anything near your eyes, you’ve got to take that much more seriously because there is a possibility that your eyesight could be affected,” Holmes said.
“Shingles can affect anyone, but knowledge is power, to know the symptoms, who to go and see, who to share this with, what help is available, and a scary thing can seem less scary.”
There is a 25% lifetime risk of contracting shingles – the risk increases with age, and in those with a weakened immune system as the virus remains dormant in the body.
The 2022 survey also revealed almost half (48%) of participants incorrectly believed people can catch shingles from someone else who has the condition.
Holmes added: “Five years ago, it’s something that I couldn’t compare to anything, usually you can say, “oh, I’ve had this before, therefore, I know what this is,” but with shingles it frightened me.
“It’s important through campaigns like this that you make people aware, and you talk about the vaccination programme and who it’s available to because you don’t want to get it.”
Get Shingles Ready is a campaign by GSK supported by Eamonn Holmes and Janet Street-Porter. For more information visit getshinglesready.co.uk