The varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is the pathogen that causes chickenpox. The problem with this virus is, once it enters the body, there is no way to eradicate it from the system. So even if a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays in his body. In other words, it goes into a state of dormancy, and hides in the nerve tissues near the spinal cord and brain. In some people, the virus may remain so forever. However, in some people, it may eventually reactivate and trigger what is known as shingles.
Standard Precautionary Measures for Shingles
☞ The main precaution for shingles is to avoid coming in contact with the shingles-affected patient, until the open sores heals. Once the sores crusts over, the disease does not remain contagious any more. As a necessary step, always wash your hands before eating and at all times.
☞ Speaking of vaccinations, there are two kinds that may help to reduce the chances of contracting chickenpox, and shingles. The varicella vaccine (Varivax) is for chickenpox, while, the varicella-zoster vaccine (Zostavax) is meant for shingles. The usage of these vaccinations does not provide complete protection against these infections, but helps reducing the chances.
☞ Precautions for shingles that must be taken at a hospital include using gloves and gowns while treating the patient, thorough hand washing procedures before and after dealing with the patient and limiting any transfer procedures of the patient. The patient should also be advised to stay in a room with the door closed. Generally, there will be directions for the visitors or care givers, provided on the door, to wear protective clothing in order to prevent the spread of the infection. This isolation procedure will be over, once the shingles rash begins to crust or scab over.
At the first sign of a shingle outbreak, the affected person must take considerable measures to prevent spreading the disease to others. Prescribed antiviral medication, over-the-counter medication and topical antibiotics are commonly used for managing the painful symptoms of shingles. It is best not to touch or irritate the affected area, as this may cause more serious infections and delay the healing. Following a healthy diet strengthens the immune system and hence it is effective in minimizing the outbreaks and speeding up the recovery time, as well.
Who Can Catch Shingles?
It is not possible for any one to contract shingles directly from a patient. A person who has not had chickenpox or its vaccination may get infected by the varicella-zoster virus from the ailing person. However, he/she wouldn't catch shingles, but will develop chickenpox.
Shingles develops on its own in a person who has already been infected by chickenpox. This means that, technically, shingles is not contagious. But again, the person who has been affected by the chickenpox virus, may develop shingles at a later part of his/her life.
People who stay at risk of contracting the infection are those with a weak immune system due to illnesses like HIV/AIDS, injury, etc. Older adults are vulnerable too.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.