Is Shingles Contagious?

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According for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shingles is not contagious, but the virus that causes shingles can be spread through skin-to-skin contact if a rash is present. An individual may develop chickenpox after physical contact with a person affected by the shingles rash.

When a shingles rash is kept covered, the risk of spreading the virus to others is low, according to the CDC. The varicella zoster virus is spread through direct contact with the fluid inside shingles blisters during the active stage of the infection. The virus is not transmittable before the blisters form or after the area develops crusts over its surface.

To prevent the spread of the virus, it is advised by the CDC to avoid scratching and touching the rash until it is healed. Washing hands can also often prevent the transmission of the virus.

Elderly individuals, as well as people with compromised immune systems, may have a higher risk of contracting shingles from an affected individual, says WebMD. Pregnant women who are exposed to shingles can pass the virus on to their fetus. People who have received the shingles vaccine may be less likely to contract the virus.

Mayo Clinic explains that shingles and chickenpox are both caused by the varicella-zoster virus. When first infected with this virus, individuals develop chickenpox. After recovering from chickenpox, the virus doesn’t leave the body. Instead, it lies dormant in tissues deep along the spine and can reactive and move along the nerves to the skin to cause shingles later in life.