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Shingles Sends Nearly 1 Million Americans to the Doctor

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: January 9, 2008

Nearly 1 million Americans receive medical care for shingles or its complications, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Shingles comes from an infection with varicella-zoster virus—the same virus that cases chicken pox—and can result in burning or shooting pain, tingling, or itching.

AHRQ's survey found that:

  • Americans make 2.1 million doctor visits a year because of shingles or its complications.
  • The average cost for treating shingles is $525 per person or $566 million each year (in 2005 dollars), including prescription medicines.
  • People age 65 and older are seven times more likely to get shingles than the nonelderly—1.5 percent compared with 0.2 percent, respectively.

AHRQ, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, works to enhance the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care in the United States. The data in this AHRQ News and Numbers summary are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid. For more information, go to Average Annual Health Care Use and Expenses for Shingles among the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population, 2003-2005.

For other information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of January 2008


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