Background: Research has indicated that general practitioners (GPs) have good clinical judgment in regards to diagnosing and managing herpes zoster (HZ) within clinical practice in a country with limited resources for primary care and general practice. The objective of the current study was to assess the burden of HZ and post herpetic neuralgia (PHN) within rural general practices in Crete, Greece.
Methods: The current study took place within a rural setting in Crete, Greece during the period of November 2007 to November 2009 within the catchment area in which the Cretan Rural Practice-based Research Network is operating. In total 19 GP's from 14 health care units in rural Crete were invited to participate, covering a total turnover patient population of approximately 25, 000 subjects. For the purpose of this study an electronic record database was constructed and used as the main tool for monitoring HZ and PHN incidence. Stress related data was also collected with the use of the Short Anxiety Screening Test (SAST).
Results: The crude incidence rate of HZ was 1.4/1000 patients/year throughout the entire network of health centers and satellite practices, while among satellite practices alone it was calculated at 1.3/1000 patients/year. Additionally, the standardised incidence density within satellite practices was calculated at 1.6/1000 patients/year. In regards to the stress associated with HZ and PHN, the latter were found to have lower levels of anxiety, as assessed through the SAST score (17.4 ± 3.9 vs. 21.1 ± 5.7; p = 0.029).
Conclusions: The implementation of an electronic surveillance system was feasible so as to measure the burden of HZ and PHN within the rural general practice setting in Crete.