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Is shingles contagious?

A person with a shingles rash can pass the virus to someone, usually a child, who has never had chickenpox. However, the child will develop chickenpox, not shingles. Merely being in the same room with a shingles patient will not cause the child to catch chickenpox because during a shingles infection the virus is not normally in the lungs and therefore can't be spread through the air. The child must come into direct contact with the open sores of the shingles rash to be infected by the virus.

People with chickenpox cannot communicate shingles to someone else although they can of course pass the chickenpox on to someone who has never had chickenpox. In cases of chickenpox, the virus can become airborne because it is found in the upper respiratory tract.

Shingles occurs when an unknown trigger causes the virus hiding inside the person's body to become activated. Unlike chickenpox, shingles can't be "caught" from someone else.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Angela Lowery
Family Medicine

No. Shingles is not contagious. While Shingles is not contagious, the rash that occurs with Shingles carries the same virus that causes chicken pox. It is a possibility a person that has not had chicken pox or has not been vaccinated against the virus, that causes chicken pox, can actually contract chicken pox from a shingles infected person.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Shingles can only occur in a body that's already had chickenpox, so shingles itself isn't contagious, but the virus that causes it is. Someone with shingles could pass chickenpox to someone who hasn't had it, but this requires contact with a broken blister because it can't be passed through the air.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.