Understanding How Shingles is Transmitted
Shingles is a viral infection that comes from the varicella zoster virus (VZV), the virus that also causes chickenpox. A person with shingles shows a visible rash and blisters on a certain spot on thebody such as the face or the neck. The area where the rash occurs is usually painful and itchy, as described by many individuals who have experienced the infection.
After you have recovered from chickenpox, or after receiving the chickenpox vaccine, the varicella zoster virus stays in your nerves forever. However, it stays inactive for many years inside your nervous system.
The reactivation of the virus will give you shingles instead of chickenpox, and there is yet no clear explanation as to what causes this condition to happen, hence there is a lot of misunderstanding about this infection.
One of the important items that we need to understand about shingles, or the varicella zoster virus, is how it is spread from one person to another. Below is some of the available medical information about shingles and how it is transmitted.
The virus that causes shingles and chickenpox are the same. Both come from VZV or varicella zoster virus. Shingles, in particular, cannot be passed from one individual to another through air, but the virus itself, varicella zoster virus, can be passed from person to person, especially if a person has a weak immune system.
In general, the varicella zoster virus is passed on during the period of a person’s childhood and it is transmitted through a child’s respiratory system. This can happen if a person with the infection sneezes or coughs, and a child or baby would breathe in the virus.
The virus would infect the lymph nodes and the tonsils, and then spread through the body. This is how the virus is spread, which will then cause a person to develop chickenpox.
Shingles can occur after the virus that has caused your chickenpox reactivates from its dormant status. This happens when your immune system weakens due reasons such as diseases, aging, stress, medication, and others. It causes a painful burning feeling and itchiness.
Open lesions may also be seen, and it is where the active viruses are more contagious. If the sore breaks down, it becomes moistened and inflamed. This is when the virus is highly infectious.
When the virus turns airborne, it passes through the lungs of the person who is vulnerable to the viral infection.
The varicella zoster virus is one of the most transmittable viruses. This means that chickenpox is highly communicable, especially when the blisters are scratched. Shingles, on the other hand, is not ascontagious as chickenpox.
If you have had chickenpox before, or the vaccine for chickenpox, it means that you already have the varicella zoster virus in your nervous system. Hence, when you are in the same place with someone who has the virus, the risk of getting the virus is low.
If you have active shingles, you can pass the virus more during the blister phase or the rash. This means that you are not as contagious prior to the appearance of blisters. You are also not contagious after the rash or blisters have dried and developed crusts.
Can vaccines prevent shingles?
Yes, vaccines help in the prevention of shingles. It is important not just for protection, but due to the fact that it can be life-threatening if not treated immediately and properly. It can trigger stroke and heart attack. As such, older people are advised to get the shingles vaccination for prevention.
As part of our childhood, we get the chickenpox vaccine for protection. This is important for someone’s health as you get older.
The vaccine prevents the occurrence of severe chickenpox, which lessens the risk of being in a life-threatening situation such as the complications of encephalitis. There are also studies showing that the chickenpox vaccine may help lower the possibility of the virus developing into shingles.
Ways to keep shingles from spreading
If you have shingles, you can prevent the spread of the virus by doing the following:
- Keep your rash covered.
- Do not touch or scratch the rash
- Make it a habit to keep your hands clean by frequent washing to stop the spread of the virus
- Avoid contact with people while your infection is at a highly contagious stage
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