Is Shingles Contagious?

Fact: The Varicella zoster virus is contagious.

The Chicken Pox Infection

Chicken pox is the initial condition caused by infection of the Varicella zoster virus. Chicken pox is highly contagious. This is due to the fact that the virus can be spread through the air via droplets from an infected individual coughing or sneezing. The virus can also be spread by physical contact with an individual who has an infection.

Fact: The Varicella zoster virus is the cause for the condition of shingles.

The Shingles Infection

Shingles is the recurring infection of the Varicella zoster virus. After a chicken pox infection, the virus lies dormant in spinal nerve cells. This dormancy can last for years. When the virus is reactivated, it is commonly associated with a banding red rash and fluid filled blisters. The banding is due to the manner in which spinal nerves spread through the body. Typically, shingles infections are limited to one spinal nerve, hence the banding. Shingles is contagious, but only through physical contact with fluid from a blister. Shingles is not responsible for air borne transmission of the Varicella zoster virus.

Fact: Shingles is contagious.

Shingles Infection: Risk Factors

There are certain risk factors that put certain individuals at a higher risk for reactivation of the Varicella zoster virus.

  • Chickenpox Infection: Anyone who has contracted chicken pox is at risk for the development of shingles.
  • Weakened Immune System : Anyone who has previously contracted chicken pox, with a weakened immune system has an increased risk for development of shingles.
  • Infants and Newborns: Both infants and newborn babies are at increased risk for chicken pox infections as their immune systems are not developed. Once the chicken pox infection has healed, shingles reactivation is more common.
  • Pregnant Women: Pregnant women are more susceptible to shingles reactivation, and an initial contraction with the varicella zoster virus into the development of chicken pox can lead to potential complications with pregnancy.
  • Age: The majority of shingles outbreaks occur in older adults over the age of 60.

Fact: Everyone and anyone who has contracted the Varicella zoster virus and suffered from the illness of chicken pox, regardless of severity, is at risk for the development of shingles.

The Shingles Vaccination

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a shingles vaccine recommended for all individuals over the age of 60 that have contracted the chicken pox infection. There is also an FDA approved chicken pox vaccine, typically given to children. The vaccination does not guarantee shingles outbreak prevention, but has been shown to effectively suppress some outbreaks while decreasing overall rates of developing complications associated with shingles, such as postherpetic neuralgia. The vaccination is as single injection, typically located to the upper arm, known as Zostavax. The shingles vaccination is not right for all individuals and should be discussed with a physician. Most of thetiem Shingles can be managed with natural treatments.

Fact: There currently exist several organizations and many medical institutions that perform Varicella zoster research in an attempt to develop more effective treatment and prevention methods.


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