How Long Is Shingles Contagious?

You might have heard that shingles can be transmitted from one person to another. While that is not entirely true, there is some fact to the idea that the virus can affect others. Shingles itself is not contagious. However, the varicella zoster virus – the virus that causes shingles – can be spread to someone who has never had chickenpox.

If a person with active shingles comes into contact with someone who has never had chickenpox, they might pass the virus on to that person. When that happens, the person who was exposed might develop chickenpox. However, it is very important to remember that the virus can only be spread during the blister phase of the rash; before that, it is not contagious at all. The virus is spread through direct contact with the fluid from the blisters, and never through coughing, sneezing, casual contact, or simply being in the room with someone who has the shingles outbreak.

Keep in mind that if the blisters are always covered with a sterile dressing, that cuts down on the likelihood of transmission. Keep the rash covered, try not to scratch it, and wash your hands as often as you can to prevent spreading any of the fluid from you to others. It is very important not to share items, such as towels or shawls, with anyone else. You should also avoid contact sports that might lead to the blisters opening or fluid touching anyone else. Shingles is actually less contagious than chickenpox is, so as long as no one makes direct contact with the blisters or the fluid from them, everyone should be just fine.

With that said, take special precautions to avoid those who are pregnant, small infants of premature birth or low birth weight, those with compromised immune systems, or those that you know have never had chickenpox before.