Are Shingles Contagious

Shingles is a viral infection which affects the nerve and the area of skin along the route of the nerve. It is caused by a virus known as herpes varicella-zoster which is found in the nerve tissue after chickenpox. The herpes varicella-zoster virus is kept in a dormant state by the immune system but can be reactivated when the immune system becomes weakened and can no longer protect the body from the virus.

With the numbers of affected people standing at around 250,000 per year, a commonly asked question is “are shingles contagious?” The straight forward answer to this question is yes, but the condition will not pose risks to every person.

What can be caught from shingles?

The overall answer to “are shingles contagious?” will depend on the person in contact with the shingles sufferer. Anybody that has previously suffered from chickenpox will already have the herpes varicella-zoster virus inside their sensory nervous system; this will give them immunity from catching shingles or chickenpox from another person.

Any person that has not been exposed to herpes varicella-zoster will not be able to catch shingles from a shingles sufferer but may be able to catch chickenpox. The chances of catching chickenpox from a person suffering from shingles are rare, especially when the rash is covered up but the risk still exists.

Any pregnant women that have not suffered from chickenpox will be required to stay clear of a shingles sufferer as the risk of chickenpox can affect the unborn child. Cases of shingles in pregnant women are rare and symptoms of those that do develop the condition are generally mild. The answer to “are shingles contagious?” in reference to a mother passing the condition on to a new-born child is also no. There is no risk of shingles affecting unborn children, nor will shingles treatment have an effect on an unborn baby.

Covering the rash to avoid spreading

Shingles will not present any problem to the general population and if covered up adequately, a sufferer is able to carry on with day-to-day life as normal providing the symptoms allow them to do so.

Covering the shingles rash will effectively eliminate the chances of passing on the herpes varicella-zoster virus. This can be done using non-adhesive dressings which will no irritate the rash in any way. The use of adhesive dressings such as plasters is not recommended as they will stick to the rash and intensify irritation they may also slow down recovery.

Speeding up the recovery for shingles

People asking the question “are shingles contagious?” that are currently suffering from the virus can effectively rule out the chance of passing on any form of the herpes varicella-zoster virus by using treatments to promote a quick recovery. Antiviral medication which can be prescribed by a GP can help to stop the virus from multiplying and speed up recovery. The medication works best when taken within three days of the first appearance of the rash although is still beneficial when taken within the first week.




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