How Long Are Shingles Contagious

Shingles is a skin rash and nerve infection that is caused by the same virus as the one that causes chickenpox. The shingles virus affects around 250,000 people each year in the UK with two thirds of those cases found in people over the age of 50. There is currently no cure for the virus although the use of treatments can help with the recovery and ease any symptoms of pain and irritation that are caused. One common query surrounding shingles is the fact about them being contagious and the more specific question of “how long are shingles contagious?”

How can shingles affect other people?

Shingles are contagious and can pass on the herpes varicella-zoster virus (the virus which causes both shingles and chickenpox) to other people. The answer surrounding “how long are shingles contagious?” is made up of different factors.

Shingles is not contagious for every person and the large majority of the population will be unable to catch anything from a person with shingles. The shingles condition itself is not contagious and it is not possible for one person to catch shingles from another person. People at risk from shingles sufferers are those that have not been previously exposed to chickenpox, and it is possible to catch chickenpox at any age from shingles, providing you do not already have the herpes varicella zoster virus in your system.

The chances of catching chickenpox from a person with shingles are also slim and the virus poses little risk when the rash is sufficiently covered by dressings.

How long do shingles last?

The answer to “how long are shingles contagious?” will ultimately depend on how long a person is affected by the virus. As long as blisters continue to form, shingles will remain contagious to other people, once the rash has started to crust and scab over it will no longer be contagious.

A common bout of shingles will last anywhere from 2-5 weeks starting with fever like symptoms, headaches and tenderness, tingling and burning sensations in the affected area. The virus will then progress to a rash of red spots along the route of a nerve and pain in the nerve endings, spots will quickly turn to blisters which will continue to show for around five days before drying out and crusting over.

The quicker you are able to get the correct treatment for the shingles virus, the better chance you will have of making a quicker recovery.

Treatments for shingles

The answer to “how long are shingles contagious?” can be cut down to less than two weeks if the correct treatment is sought early enough. Seeking medical advice for the virus at the first sign of the rash will mean that a GP can prescribe antiviral drugs. When taken in the first 72 hours of the rash appearing they can help to reduce the overall severity of the condition and stop the virus from multiplying, this will help to speed up the recovery process dramatically.




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