Using an enormous database that holds complete medical records on 8 percent of Britain’s population — the kind of helpful, broadly representative trove that comes with having a national health service — epidemiologists at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine identified 6,584 people who’d had both shingles and a stroke between 1987 and 2012. Because the incidence of shingles increases with age, these unlucky Britons were mostly past 70 (median age: 77).
The researchers’ study, just published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, showed that in the four weeks after a shingles diagnosis, these individuals had a 63 percent higher rate of stroke than at other times. From weeks five through 12, their stroke risk ran 42 percent higher, falling to 23 percent higher in weeks 13 through 26.
“There’s no increased risk after that,” said the lead author Sinead Langan, a senior lecturer in epidemiology. The reasons for the spike, she said, might include the inflammation associated with a viral infection or damage to blood vessels.
The study found an even higher stroke rate among those whose shingles spread to their eyes, though most are spared that particular misery. It also found that the antiviral drugs given for shingles also reduced subsequent strokes — but only 55 percent of patients received them.
Only 55% received them because Britain has a national “health” service that doesn’t, you know, actually give a damn about its patients’ health.
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