Perhaps you have wondered where Shingles comes from and whether or not it is contagious. Well, Shingles comes from the virus Herpes zoster and can develop sometime after you have had Chickenpox. It turns out that Shingles and Chickenpox are both contagious. Chickenpox is a viral disease that is generally acquired when you are a child and then appears to disappear. Actually, the virus enters the terminal ends of axons and travels through the axons to the cell bodies of neurons along the spinal column. There the virus remains until your immune system weakens. There are many reasons for your system to weaken which includes: emotional or physical stress, cancer, drugs and aging. This weakness in your system allows for the virus to replicate (make copies of itself) and migrate down the axon, break out, and generate sores on the surface of your body again.
When is Shingles contagious? When you observe moist Shingles sores that are blister like and oozing, the virus is located within this mass and is easily transferred to other individuals. This individual is now contagious and you should stay away from them. If the lesion is dry and appears to be healing, it is probably okay to come close. These blisters often appear around the trunk of the body but have also been observed on the face in some individuals. Generally, the only way to pass this virus from one individual to another is by direct physical contact.
If you are an adult male or pregnant female and have not had Chickenpox, it is a good idea to shy away from individuals who have Chickenpox or Shingles. If you have grandparents who have Shingles, you need to keep your children away as your children can get Chickenpox from the Shingles your relatives have. There are some precautions you can take to keep you and your children protected. Make sure not to share bathroom items such as clothing, towels, wash cloths and any items that can accumulate virus such as the surface of things. It's also a good idea to stay away from swimming pools whether private or public if you are particularly vulnerable or if you have the virus yourself. Avoid having sexual contact with someone who has Shingles.
When you have Shingles there are general symptoms you should look for. These signs include: itching, tingling or burning sensations on areas of the face and/or trunk of your body. Patients have often reported hot spots at the area of infection as well as body fever and headache. Others report stomach and intestinal problems as well as a general tired run down feeling or malaise. Those tender areas will eventually form blisters with fluid filled areas and this is when Shingles becomes contagious.
It is a good idea to seek medical attention for Shingles as soon as possible. Each successive outbreak you experience can become worse and wreak havoc on other tissues and organs of your body. These sores can become very painful eventually bringing about chronic neuralgia known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). If not treated, this can develop into visual loss, respiratory dysfunction (pneumonia) and/or brain dysfunction (encephalitis). Although rare, Shingles can lead to death.
If you are concerned about catching Chickenpox whether as an adult or child and eventually experiencing Shingles when your older, vaccination is your best bet. Today there is a vaccine for senior citizens known as Zostavax that helps to avoid a Shingles outbreak and all of its complications.
Even though many children and adults have experienced Chickenpox, not all experience Shingles. Is Shingles contagious? Yes, and try to be considerate of pregnant women, older males and young children and protect them from your infection.