Is Shingles Contagious?

Many people want to know if shingles is contagious. A person with shingles cannot transmit shingles to another person. However, a person with shingles can pass on the varicella-zoster virus to others, and this could cause chickenpox in someone who has never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine.

Is Shingles Contagious?

Many people wonder, "Is shingles contagious?" The answer is no. Therefore, a person who comes in contact with an infected person will not develop shingles. However, although shingles is not contagious, contact with a person with shingles can cause chickenpox in someone who has never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine.
 

A Closer Look

As early as 1909, a German scientist suspected that the viruses causing chickenpox and shingles were one and the same. In the 1920s and 1930s, the case was strengthened. As part of an experiment, children were inoculated with fluid from the lesions of patients with shingles. Within two weeks, about half the children came down with chickenpox. Finally, in 1958, detailed analyses of the viruses taken from patients with either chickenpox or shingles confirmed that the viruses were identical. The virus that causes shingles and chickenpox is known as the varicella-zoster virus.
 
Based on these studies, it was shown that a person with shingles (also known as herpes zoster) can pass the varicella-zoster virus to others, but these individuals would develop chickenpox instead of shingles. Therefore, a person with shingles cannot transmit shingles to another person. In other words, in order for a person to develop shingles, he or she must already harbor the chickenpox virus in the nervous system. When this virus becomes active again, the individual will develop shingles.
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