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(excerpt from Shingles: What We Know, What You Should Know, by Dr. Phillip Hall)
A question many of my patients ask is 'is shingles contagious?' This is a good question, particularly if you have loved ones who might be especially vulnerable to disease or to infection, or may have a compromised immune system. A person with shingles can pass the varicella-zoster virus to anyone who isn't immune to chickenpox. This passing of the virus usually occurs through direct contact with the open sores of the shingles rash. Once infected, the person will develop chickenpox, however, not shingles. Over time, the person, once having chickenpox, may become more susceptible to contracting shingles. This is why the sores should be kept covered and only handled while wearing gloves.
So the answer to 'are shingles contagious? ' is yes, but with a little precaution, it shouldn't be a problem.
Since shingle are contagious, for how long could they pose a problem? The shingles contagious stage will last as long as the shingles sores are open. During this period, the patient should not only refrain from touching the sore, but also having others touch them as well. Keep them covered. Once the rash has crusted or scabbed over, the person is no longer contagious. This will usually be a matter of days. Once the scabs have crusted over, you are safe again and pose no real threat to friends or family.
Chickenpox can be dangerous for some groups of people. Until your shingles blisters scab over, you are contagious and should avoid physical contact with:
Shingles rashes will usually go away within a month, with most cases ending within two to three weeks. Severe case may linger for a longer period. If your shingles have been severe in the past, you might want to consider getting a vaccination to head off the worst of the outbreaks. Getting vaccinated for shingles is the best way to avoid contracting the disease. The immunization includes a booster shot of the chickenpox vaccine and has been clinically shown to be effective against shingles. It is available to individuals over the age of 50, and is recommended for everyone over the age of 60 who has had the chickenpox.
If you or a loved one are showing symptoms of shingles, especially if you are at a higher risk for the disease, it is important to receive prompt medical care. With an early diagnosis, you can treat the condition more effectively, and reduce the eventual severity of the rash. Shingles, although often uncomfortable, can be treated and managed rather effectively. In later chapers, I'll show you have you can live your life fully, even with this disease.
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National Shingle Foundationhttp://www.vzvfoundation.org/
Shingles Prevention Advocatehttp://www.fightshingles.org/about.php/
Center for Disease Controlhttp://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/