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Is Herpes Zoster Contagious?

Is Herpes Zoster Contagious?
A person who has been infected with herpes zoster (shingles) cannot pass shingles to someone else, but it can cause chicken pox instead. So technically, shingles is not contagious.
Rajib Singha
Last Updated: Jan 27, 2018
This varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is responsible for causing chickenpox. Once the infection is resolves, the virus goes into a dormant stage hiding in the nervous system, and is not fully eradicated. The dormancy can go on for many years, until the virus is reactivated by some kind of trigger such as stress or immune deficiency. Once it is reactivated, it travels along the nerve pathways to the skin, eventually causing shingles.
Is Shingles Contagious?
A person who has shingles can pass the varicella-zoster virus to someone who has not been infected by chickenpox. After having contracted the infection, the person would, however, develop chickenpox and not shingles. However, later life the same person may develop shingles.

The contagious period of herpes zoster lasts until the shingle rash which start as blisters, begins to heal or crust over. The virus is not left with the ability to spread any further once the blisters have crusted over completely thus, it remains no more contagious.

People over 50 are known to be the most vulnerable to develop shingles. People who are immunocompromised, such as those with cancer or HIV/AIDS are also at a risk to develop the same. Procedures such as radiation or chemotherapy lowers down immunity, and this may trigger shingles too. To prevent rejection of transplanted organs by the body, certain drugs are administered. And even these drugs can increase the risk to develop shingles.
Symptoms of Shingles
Affecting one side of the body in most cases, shingles begins with symptoms which include pain, burning, numbness or tingling sensations in the affected area. The pain is followed by a red rash after a few days and then blisters which are fluid-filled. These blisters will break open and later, crust over. Fatigue, headache, general fever and chills are also some of the symptoms of shingles which show up in some people.
Treatment Options
The herpes zoster virus normally runs its course for a few weeks and gets resolved on its own. Treatment takes care of the discomfort caused by the symptoms. Certain antiviral drugs may be prescribed by your doctor after the first sign of the herpes zoster rash and so will be the medicines for relieving the pain.

Apart from taking medicines, ensure that your body gets plenty of rest. Taking a break from strenuous activities will help in recuperating sooner. Take on some light activities like reading, listening to soft music, watching movies (humorous ones are a good choice), relaxation, etc. Cool compresses on the blisters will provide relief from itching and pain. Take care not to apply any ice compresses as it may worsen the blisters. Soak a clean cloth in cool water and apply. A cool shower also helps.
There is no cure for the herpes zoster infection, and so medication and home remedies are at your disposal to relieve the discomfort arising from the symptoms. A bit of tolerance, until the virus runs its course, is what is required more in order to counter this disease.