Is Shingles a Form of Herpes?

Shingles and herpes do not result from the same virus, explains the Merck Manual. Shingles results from the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus, or human herpes virus type 3, the virus that causes chicken pox. Herpes comes from the herpes simplex virus. The lesions sometimes look identical, but the infections are not the same.

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, only occurs in people who have had chicken pox, explains WebMD. After the acute infection goes away, the virus lies dormant in the body, usually for many years. Then, for reasons that doctors don't fully understand, it sometimes becomes active again, causing a painful, blistery, itchy rash. Shingles is not contagious; however, if an unvaccinated person who has not had chicken pox comes in direct contact with the rash, he may catch chicken pox.

Herpes simplex virus infections occur in two forms, HSV type 1 and HSV type 2, according to MedlinePlus. Typically, HSV type 1 causes oral lesions, or cold sores, while HSV type 2 causes genital herpes, which appears on the genitals, buttocks and anus. Both spread through direct physical contact and tend to recur. HSV type 2 is a sexually transmitted disease.

Some people with herpes have no symptoms, but others develop pain and tingling in the infected area, followed by one or more fluid-filled blisters, explains the American Academy of Dermatology. Symptoms usually appear between two and 20 days after contact with an infected person, and the initial infection can persist for two to six weeks, depending on the site. Although the mouth and genital regions are the most common sites of infection, herpes can appear anywhere on the body, including the face and hands.