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Is Shingles Contagious?

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If you have shingles, you know how painful it can be. Worst of all, some people who have shingles develop lifelong problems associated with the illness. Naturally, you don’t want to pass this problem to others. Learn more about whether you’re contagious and what you can do to prevent spreading your germs.

You Can’t Spread “Shingles”
You won’t pass “shingles” to another person. Shingles is a confusing illness because it’s caused by varicella zoster, which is the same virus that causes chicken pox. Anyone who’s had chicken pox in the past already has the virus lying dormant in their system. This means that the person has a chance of developing shingles. However, exposure to someone who currently has shingles will not cause you to develop shingles. No one knows what triggers shingles, but it’s not triggered by someone who has the disease.

On the other hand, you can transfer the varicella zoster virus to a person who has not had chicken pox. In this case, the person would develop chicken pox, even if that person is an adult. That person would then be at risk for developing shingles later in life.

The Contagious Part
The varicella zoster virus is only transferred through the fluid in the rash’s pus. It’s not transferred through saliva or by simple skin to skin contact. This means that you are only contagious during the time when the blisters start to open up. Once they crust over and start to go away, you’re no longer contagious. During this time, it’s best to avoid contact with pregnant women or people with compromised immune systems who have not had the chicken pox.

Preventing Transmission
If you are around someone who has not had chicken pox, you might want to take precautions to not pass the virus on to them. Simply covering up your rash with gauze bandages is usually enough to prevent transmission. Of course, handwashing and sanitizing is still smart. For instance, you may have accidentally touched the blister while you were applying on the bandage, so you’ll want to wash hands after that.

In general, you do not need to be very concerned about passing shingles to your friends and family. Since most adults have had chicken pox in the past, they are all at risk for developing shingles, but they will not catch it from you. As long as you keep your open sores covered, you should be fine.

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