Is shingles contagious?
Shingles is caused by a virus similar to the virus that causes chicken pox. It is highly contagious to people who have never had chicken pox before. A person is first infected with chicken pox and as the disease gradually resolves after several weeks, the virus does not die; it remains on a nerve fiber or a nerve strand where it stays dormant for years.
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Factors that compromise a person’s health like stress, severe illness and exposure to chemicals and pollutants that can suppress the immune system can cause the virus to awaken and wreck havoc once more but this time it only affects the area supplied by the nerve. This is the reason why only an area of the body is affected by shingles with localized pain, rashes, sensitivity, itching and scar formation.
Shingles can cause chicken pox to people who have never had chicken pox before. So, is shingles contagious? Yes, It is highly contagious from the time rashes or blisters appear to the time the last blister is healing. When all the blisters have developed into crusts, the virus cannot transfer to another host anymore. It is very important therefore for families and communities to have adequate knowledge of the preventive measures to contain shingles and chicken pox; here are several techniques:
- Contain persons with shingles or chicken pox, only person’s who have had the disease before can care for patients. Babies, pregnant women and immune suppressed persons must avoid contact with the patient at all costs.
- The virus is transferred through close personal contact especially through the use of personal items that the person has touched or has used; this includes eating utensils, personal items like towels, handkerchiefs, sunglasses, mobile phones and many more.
- Practice frequent hand washing to prevent transfer of the virus. Wear protective masks, gowns and disinfect areas where patients stay and eat. Use alcohol or a strong detergent to destroy virus on contact.
- Increase family members as well as the patient’s resistance to infection by taking vitamin supplements, eating nutritious foods and by taking time off to rest and relax.
- Advice the patient not to scratch and pick his rashes or blisters; this will only increase the possibility of skin infections by allowing bacteria to enter the blisters.
- Advice people who have a higher risk to develop shingles to be vaccinated. People who are older (above 60 years old), with reduced immune system health, diagnosed with cancer, leukemia and those who receive immunosuppressive drugs are at high risk to develop shingles and chicken pox. They should seek consult for the possibility of contacting shingles as soon as possible.
- Advice the patient to cover his blisters with clothing or with gauze to reduce the spread of the virus.
SO, you know now the answer to the question is shingles contagious?, just like any other communicable disease, patients with shingles are advised to also build their resistance by eating healthy and taking enough rest. It may take three to four weeks for blisters to completely heal which is enough time to allow a patient’s resistance to improve to prevent spread of the disease.