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Rethinking the Utility of the Audio-Only Encounter: A Case of Herpes Zoster Co-Infection in Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2.

BACKGROUND: Telemedicine with video communication has become commonly applied during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. While audio-only encounters are not allowed in Japan after August 2023. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) in the United States revised the telehealth policy to make the video visit standard. We present here a case with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection and diagnosed her with the Herpes zoster at audio-only encounters followed by an in-person clinic visit.

CASE PRESENTATION: A 31-year-old woman called our hospital for a complaint of right chest discomfort and a tingling sensation. The SARS-CoV-2 infection was confirmed on her with the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test 4 days before the symptom onset. A telephone encounter was made for her since the video communication failed to be prepared. The attending physician made a diagnosis of herpes zoster based on her verbal explanation of symptoms and localized skin lesions. An anti-viral medication with amenamevir was given. The photos of skin lesions were sent 3 days after the audio visit, which was consistent with herpes zoster. The patient visited our outpatient clinic and was confirmed for herpes zoster serologically with positive antibodies of both varicella-zoster IgM and IgG.

CONCLUSIONS: The audio-only visit could help diagnose herpes zoster if the follow-up examinations are performed adequately. Audio-only encounters preserve the flexibility of telemedicine when video communication cannot be prepared promptly.

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