Herpes zoster infection is associated with increased risk for cardiovascular events, suggests a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Researchers in South Korea examined the medical records of 520,000 people from 2003 to 2013. During this time, 4% were diagnosed with herpes zoster. These patients were matched with control participants who didn’t develop herpes zoster.
Those with herpes zoster had higher rates of subsequent cardiovascular events, stroke, and myocardial infarction, compared with control patients. The absolute risk difference for stroke was 1.34 per 1000 person-years and for MI was 0.80 per 1000 person-years. The risks were highest in the year following herpes zoster diagnosis and for younger patients, who generally have fewer atherosclerosis risk factors.
The authors speculate that the increased risk could be related to viral replication near an artery, potentially leading to arterial inflammation; repeated subclinical viral reactivation; or a change in immunologic status caused by reactivation.