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tan235's avatar

How do you catch Chicken pox from shingles?

Asked by tan235 (877points) February 7th, 2011

I just found out that my friend has shingles, he got me to look at his back a few times, I don’t believe I touched any of the blisters but may have touched the rash.
I know hear that you can catch chicken pox from shingles.
In order for this to happen do you need to be exposed to the blisters?
Could I have caught chicken pox from him?
I’m pretty sure I didn’t touch the rash but am pretty concerned.
I’m not sure if i’ve had chicken pox or not….

thanks!

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14 Answers

genkan's avatar

Both chickenpox and shingles are caused by the same virus, the varicella zoster virus. When you are first infected with this virus, you get chickenpox. When you ‘recover’ from the virus, your body will not entirely eradicate the virus, and there’s the risk that the virus can reemerge years later, in which case you get what is called shingles. So you have to have had chickenpox before you can get shingles.

So your friend has shingles, and the ‘blisters’ are where his body is shedding the virus. So if you catch the virus from the blisters, (and I believe the virus can be transmitted through the air by being around your friend), you may get chickenpox, BUT ONLY IF you have never had chicken pox before. If you have had chicken pox before you ought to be immune.

If you don’t know whether you’ve had chicken pox before or not, I’d highly recommend staying away from your friend. I assume you’re an adult, and catching chickenpox as an adult is a lot more severe than getting it as a child.

tan235's avatar

yeah totally, I did read that shingles is not air borne, so assuming that you need to touch it to catch it?

genkan's avatar

@tan235 A bit of googling suggests that research has shown that the virus can be airborne.
http://www.uptodate.com/contents/prevention-of-varicella-zoster-virus-infection-herpes-zoster

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JLeslie's avatar

It’s already done. Now just wait and see if you get it. I am assuming you have never had chicken pox? And, that you were not vaccinated? If it were me, I would wait a few weeks, and once in the clear I would get a blood titer to see if you have immunity to chicken pox before getting a shot. If you have never been exposed it probably is prudent to get vaccinated, because chicken pox in adults can be deadly. The down side is once you have the virus you can develop shingles later. I would not get vaccinated without doing the blood test.

Aethelwine's avatar

You need to have direct contact with the blisters during the active phase. I’ve lived with shingles for over 20 years now, and not one person has developed chicken pox by being near me when I have the rash.

You can be near your friend, just don’t touch the blisters.

tan235's avatar

yeah i also found out i’ve had chicken pox so i’m probably ok, I“m sorry to hear @jonsblond that you’ve had shingles for such a long time, they are quite painful I believe?

JLeslie's avatar

@tan235 Definitely ok, unless you have a problem with your immune system. When I get shingles it itches more than anything. Totally sucks. Some people do complain about having a lot of pain.

Aethelwine's avatar

@tan235 For me the itching is worse than the pain, like @JLeslie. I get about two outbreaks a year and it’s frustrating. It does hurt for a week or two afterwards, but that’s nothing compared to the itching. I hope it doesn’t get worse when I get older. Glad to hear you’ve had chicken pox and you should be fine @tan235.

JLeslie's avatar

@jonsblond I don’t know how long youbhave been getting shingles, but for me, in recent years I get much fewer outbreaks. In the last 5 years I have only had one. But, in the last 5 years I get much more sleep, and have not been working full time. The first 5 years, when I started getting shingles, I had it twice a year also.

Aethelwine's avatar

@JLeslie I was 16 when I had chicken pox, 20 when I developed shingles. I’ve had it for 20 years now. When I get a new doctor, they find it hard to believe I got it at such a young age. The outbreaks are worse when I’m stressed, of course. I was told my maternal grandmother had it, and I’ve learned it can be hereditary. yay, lucky me~

JLeslie's avatar

@jonsblond I started at age 24. Supposedly there is a shingles vaccine now. I never looked into it, because I would not take it now. Not sure if it works if you have already had shingles? Do you get it on your face? I always feel really bad for people when I see them with shingles on their face. Seems like that would be the worst.

Aethelwine's avatar

@JLeslie Just on the back of my arm, back of my head and my chest. People can go blind if they get it on their face. It’s scary. I had an outbreak on the back of my arm when I was pregnant with my oldest son, and during my visit to the OB they took every measure to make sure my arm didn’t touch any surfaces so I couldn’t pass it along to someone else. Trying to keep this on topic as much as possible OP!

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