Shingles contagious risk


Q: I am concerned about contracting Shingles, My girlfriend says she is starting to have a case of shingles. I have been away from home about 3 weeks. I have never had chickenpox. Is kissing going to be a problem or just simple contact going to be a problem (holding hands, hugging) Or is direct contact with the infected area the problem?


A:   I understand your concern about shingles. This is a viral infection that causes a painful rash. Although shingles can occur anywhere on your body, it most often appears as a band of blisters that wraps from the middle of your back around one side of your chest to your breastbone. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. Anyone who's had chickenpox may develop shingles. After you recover from chickenpox, the virus can enter your nervous system and lie hidden for years.
A person with shingles like your partner can pass the varicella-zoster virus to anyone who hasn't had chickenpox like yourself. This usually occurs through direct contact with the open sores of the shingles rash. Once infected, the person will develop chickenpox, however, not shingles. I would suggest you to have a Chicken pox vaccination which has become a routine childhood immunization to prevent chickenpox. However, the vaccine is also recommended for adults who've never had chickenpox. Though the vaccine doesn't guarantee you won't get chickenpox or shingles, it can reduce your chances of complications and reduce the severity of the disease.

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