Anyone who has had chickenpox in the past can develop shingles; even children can get shingles. Shingles cannot be passed from one person to another.
The virus that causes shingles, varicella zoster virus (VZV) can spread from a person with active shingles and cause chickenpox in someone who had never had chickenpox or received chickenpox vaccine.
VZV spreads through direct contact with fluid from the rash blisters.
Most people who develop shingles have only one episode during their lifetime. However, you can get the disease more than once.
A person with active shingles can spread the virus when the rash is in the blister-phase. You are not infectious before the blisters appear. Once the rash crusts, you are no longer infectious.
VZV from a person with shingles is less contagious than the virus from someone with chickenpox. The risk of spreading the virus is low if you cover the shingles rash.
To prevent spreading VZV to others:
- Cover the rash.
- Avoid touching or scratching the rash.
- Wash your hands often.
- Avoid contact with the following people until your rash crusts:
- 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.
Some people have a greater risk of getting shingles. This includes people who
- have medical conditions that keep their immune systems from working properly, such as certain cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- receive drugs that keep their immune systems from working properly, such as steroids and drugs that are given after organ transplantation