Shingles cannot be passed from one person to another. However, the virus that causes shingles, the varicella zoster virus, can be spread from a person with active shingles to another person who has never had chickenpox. In such cases, the person exposed to the virus might develop chickenpox, but they would not develop shingles.
The virus is spread through direct contact with fluid from the rash blisters caused by shingles.
A person with active shingles can spread the virus when the rash is in the blister-phase. A person is not infectious before the blisters appear. Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer contagious.
Shingles is less contagious than chickenpox and the risk of a person with shingles spreading the virus is low if the rash is covered.
If you have shingles
- Keep the rash covered.
- Avoid touching or scratching the rash.
- Wash your hands often to prevent the spread of varicella zoster virus.
- Until your rash has developed crusts, avoid contact with
- pregnant women who have never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine;
- premature or low birth weight infants; and
- people with weakened immune systems, such as people receiving immunosuppressive medications or undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplant recipients, and people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.
Also see Shingles Prevention & Treatment
- Page last reviewed: May 1, 2014
- Page last updated: September 17, 2014
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