Shingles is a viral infection that causes an irritating rash on one side of your body. This painful condition forms pus-filled blisters that burst and crust over. It often lasts for many weeks and may leave scars. But is shingles contagious? Yes. Can you give it to your husband, or anyone else? No.
How do I get shingles?
You cannot get shingles from another person. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you have chickenpox as a child, the virus lies dormant in your nervous system. Sometimes, for reasons not entirely understood, the virus is activated, causing shingles. So if you have shingles, you were actually infected by your own chickenpox.
How is shingles contagious?
If you have shingles, you can give another person chickenpox if they haven't had it already. So, if your husband has not had chickenpox yet, you could give him chickenpox, but not shingles. You will be contagious for about a week after the rash appears. If you have shingles, chickenpox is usually transmitted through contact with the open blisters of the rash. The best thing to do is keep your rash covered up so no one will have direct contact with it, and so you won't touch it and then touch someone else. Shingles is usually painful, so you probably won't want anyone to touch you anyway.
Who can get chickenpox from shingles patients?
Be careful around those who are especially susceptible to chickenpox, including:
- People with weak immune systems, like people with cancer or HIV/AIDS
- Babies, and those who haven't had chickenpox yet
- Women who are pregnant (chicken pox is dangerous for developing babies)
- The elderly
What about the shingles vaccine?
The shingles vaccine is designed to either keep you from getting shingles or reduce the severity of your infection and reduce your chances of developing postherpectic neuralgia. If you have already had shingles, it can keep you from getting it again. In a large clinical trial involving adults 60 years and older, the vaccine prevented shingles in 51 percent of the patients and postherpetic neuralgia in 67 percent of patients.
The shingles vaccine is not for everyone, including:
- People with weakened immune systems from HIV or other diseases
- Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy
- People have allergic reaction to some aspect of the vaccine, including gelatin or antibiotic neomycin
- Patients taking a drug that affects the immune system, like steroids
- Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
- Patients with tuberculosis
- Patients with cancer affecting the lymphatic system or bone marrow, like lymphoma or leukemia
The shingles vaccine is meant for people over the age of 60 because they are the most likely to develop shingles. The FDA has not approved the vaccine for people under 60. Shingles is not a condition that can be passed from person to person. If you develop shingles, it came from the chickenpox you had as a child, which has been dormant until now. Even though you can't give anyone shingles, you can give them chickenpox if they haven't had it already.