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Is shingles contagious?

September 1, 2019

Ask the doctors

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Q. I understand that shingles is caused by a virus. Does that mean that shingles is contagious?

A. Yes and no. If you had chickenpox when you were a child, you are at risk for shingles. Shingles occurs when the varicella-zoster virus that caused your chickenpox re-emerges after lying dormant in your nerve cells from the time of your original illness. When this occurs, you are contagious, but you can't give someone shingles. You can, however, infect people with chickenpox if they haven't been exposed to the virus in the past and haven't been vaccinated against it. For this reason, it's important to take precautions, particularly if you are close to someone who has a weakened immune system.

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