Medical Q&As

Shingles - contagious?

A friend of a friend has developed shingles; can you tell me if it is contagious?

Shingles and chicken pox are both caused by the same virus, which is known as herpes zoster. Chicken pox usually confers life long immunity, which means that you can only get it once. However, the virus may remain dormant in the body only to flare up several years later giving rise to shingles. In other words shingles can only happen in a person that has previously had chicken pox. Therefore you cannot transmit shingles to another person since that condition can only occur in an individual that has already had chicken pox. Since people with shingles have live herpes zoster in their skin lesions there is the small risk that they could transmit the virus to others giving rise to an attack of chicken pox.