Transmission of Shingles: Is Shingles Contagious?

A person who never had chickenpox before or has not received the vaccine for chickenpox is more prone to catching the virus that causes chickenpox and eventually shingles. Chickenpox is more contagious than shingles, but the virus that causes both, varicella zoster virus (VZV), can be passed from one person to another.

The rash you develop when you have shingles is not contagious in the sense that it can’t be passed to another individual. This means that shingles, as a disease, is not at all contagious in itself.

However, it is important to note that shingles can spread the viral infection or the virus from an active blister or rash directly to another individual. This is possible if the person exposed to the varicella-zoster virus is not immune to the virus or has not had chickenpox before. This makes shingles indirectly contagious.

Be aware that the varicella zoster virus is the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles. The virus initially causes chickenpox and it becomes inactive for years after chickenpox is cured. The virus, unfortunately, awakens after years because of unknown reasons, and comes out as shingles.

Since the viral infection caused by varicella zoster virus is considered highly contagious, and the same virus causes shingles, it may be accurate to put some correlation between the two. Because of this, a few researchers say that shingles is contagious in some way.

There are still a lot of debates here, and many contradicting articles that talk about shingles being contagious or nor.

Development of shingles and when it is most contagious

When the virus that causes shingles infects you, you will notice a rash or blisters becoming visible after a few days. These will come out after experiencing the following symptoms:

  • Tingling or itchy sensation
  • Burning feeling
  • Numbness on one side of your body

When rashes and blisters start to appear, you are starting to discard the virus from the skin or lesions. This is when shingles or the viral infection is highly contagious.

Two stages of shingles

  • Prodromal stage—This is the stage when you start to feel the symptoms of shingles, but without the visible rashes or blisters yet
  • Active stage—This period in the viral infection is when the rash and blisters start to appear or become more visible

How long does shingles remain contagious?

The regular symptoms of shingles include the visible rash and blisters on one side of your body. The rash will become itchier by the day and the blisters will break and will release fluid. This condition usually lasts for 5 to 7 days and could last longer depending on the severity of the infection.

The infected person is believed to be contagious during the formation of the rashand blisters, and until all the blisters have broken out.

The rashes may cause some pain and itchiness and this can worsen as the body fights the infection. The rashis expected to heal in about 2 to 4 weeks or could take longer depending on the condition of the affected, and the severity of the infection. Rashes may leave scars on the skin after they disappear.

Can shingles be transmitted through touch or saliva?

VZV or the varicella zoster virus that causes chickenpox and shingles is highly contagious, especially to individuals who have not had chickenpox before, or have not received the vaccination. The virus is released from the lesions caused by shingles.

While shingles is not known to be transmitted through intercourse or a sexual contact, the virus can still be spread during the act if lesions that release the virus are touched.

If the person who touched the lesion is susceptible to the virus, because he or she is not resistant to VZV and has had not chickenpox before, then the person will get the virus and develop chickenpox. This may develop into shingles in the future.

Because of the scenario above, it can be said that shingles can be transmitted through touch. But the lesions must be open or be releasing the virus before it can happen.

Also, it is said that the virus can be spread through saliva since there are reports saying that the VZV can be found in the saliva and also in the nasal discharge of individuals with shingles or chickenpox. However, there is yet not enough data to prove the transmission of shingles through the saliva.
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