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Infectious Diseases

Is shingles contagious through indirect conta

08/26/2003

Question:

My 45 year old husband was diagnosed with Shingles. I have three nephews (todlers). Can they get chichen pox even if they have not have direct contact with him? The rest of the family have been around my husband. My brother is concerned about his children since he read that is a contagious disease. At this point my husband has not develop any rash or blisters. Is that a less change of transmiting the virus?

Answer:

Shingles, or herpes zoster, is caused by the chickenpox virus that remains in the nerve roots of all persons who had chickenpox and can come out in your body again years later to cause illness. Can someone who has been vaccinated for chickenpox develop shingles?Yes. Is shingles contagious? Yes, people with shingles are contagious to persons who have not had chickenpox. Therefore, people who have not had chickenpox can catch chickenpox if they have close contact with a person who has shingles. Those toddlers are at risk especially if they are susceptible and have not received the varicella (chicken pox)vaccine or have not had chickenpox disease. Even with the vaccine, there is still a chance of infection. Please note that you can`t catch the disease shingles itself from someone else. Persons with zoster may be a source of infection for a week after the appearance of the rash. Shingles is caused by the chickenpox virus which has been dormant (staying quiet) in your body ever since you had chickenpox. When you get shingles it is from your own chickenpox virus, not from someone else. You are encouraged to contact your pediatrician or primary care physician to discuss your concerns. 

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Response by:

Benita Jackson, MD, MPH, FACPM
Assistant Professor, Epidemiology
College of Public Health
The Ohio State University