Why You Cant Get Shingles But You Can Still Get Chickenpox
Shingles are a reactivation of the same virus that caused chickenpox. Therefore, you need to have had exposure to VZV earlier in life.
Chickenpox tends to be more prevalent in children and is transmitted very quickly through groups. Even so, its still a real risk for adults. Chickenpox is a highly infectious disease that can spread to about 90 percent of unvaccinated household contacts of a person who has it.
You Can Get Shingles More Than Once
Most people will only have one outbreak of shingles in their lifetime, but “in rare cases, it can reactivate a second time and cause another episode of shingles,” says Amesh A. Adalja, MD, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
A second or third bout of shingles happens the same way as a first outbreak the virus reactivates and spreads to your skin. However, experts don’t know exactly what causes the virus to deactivate and reactivate.
A study published in 2011 in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that among more than 1600 shingles patients, about 5% experienced a second outbreak. It is possible to have a third outbreak of shingles, but this happens very rarely.
Keep in mind that if you’ve already had shingles once, you can’t get infected again from someone with shingles or chickenpox. The only way that you can have multiple bouts of shingles is through the reactivation of the dormant virus in your own body.
How To Avoid Getting Shingles More Than Once
Getting the shingles vaccine protects you against shinglesand from a shingles recurrence too.
Zostavax, approved in 2006, was once the only shingles vaccine available to older individuals. As of November 2020, Zostavax is no longer available in the US.
Another vaccine, Shingrix, was approved in 2017 by the FDA for adults 50 and older, and its said to be over 90% effective, according to the CDC.
This new vaccine is a very important one for all of us to consider, Dr. Cutler said. In my practice we routinely recommend this vaccine to everyone over 50.
With the possibility that shingles can recur, experts urge anyone who has had shingles to be vaccinated as well. I believe that its imperative that you work with your health care provider to get vaccinated as soon as youre in this age range or have had shingles, Dr. Cutler said.
Shingrix is given in two doses, scheduled two to six months apart. Its important to note that you should also get Shingrix even if you had Zostavax, the older shingles vaccine, Dr. Cutler added. You should also get it if you dont know if you had chickenpox as a child.
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Can You Get Chickenpox If You’ve Been Vaccinated
Yes. About 15% 20% of people who have received one dose of varicella vaccine do still get chickenpox if they are exposed, but their disease is usually mild. Vaccinated persons who get chickenpox generally have fewer than 50 spots or bumps, which may resemble bug bites more than typical, fluid-filled chickenpox blisters. In 2006, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend routine two-dose varicella vaccination for children. In one study, children who received two doses of varicella vaccine were three times less likely to get chickenpox than individuals who have had only one dose.
Why Do Some Cases Of Childhood Shingles Still Occur
In rare cases, children cannot be vaccinated against the varicella zoster virus, including those who had a severe allergic reaction to the first dose, are being treated for cancer or are otherwise immunocompromised. Babies could also be exposed to the virus from an encounter with an adult or unvaccinated child who has developed the illness. In these cases, a chickenpox infection would put that child at risk for developing shingles in the future.
Even if your child has had chickenpox, shingles in kids with strong immune systems is still rare. Cases of shingles that do develop in kids and teens are typically mild as compared to the severe, painful outbreak that tends to affect older adults.
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You Cannot Get Shingles From Someone With Chickenpox
You cannot get shingles from someone with shingles or chickenpox.
But you can get chickenpox from someone with shingles if you have not had chickenpox before.
When people get chickenpox, the virus remains in the body. It can be reactivated later and cause shingles if someone’s immune system is lowered.
This can be because of stress, certain conditions, or treatments like chemotherapy.
Shingles Virus Can Sleep Reactivate
Shingles is caused by the same virus the varicella zoster virus that causes chickenpox. Once you have had chickenpox, the virus that caused it remains inside your nerves. It is inactive, but it can be reactivated later in life. This causes shingles.
When the virus reactivates, the infected nerves, and the skin the nerves go to, become inflamed, causing a burning or stabbing pain. A few days later, when the virus reaches the skin, a rash of blisters appear along the affected nerve. The skin may be very sensitive, unable to tolerate even the lightest touch.
About 1 in 10 adults who get shingles experience long-term pain, even after the rash has healed completely. This condition is called post-herpetic neuralgia . It may last for months, or even years. And it can be debilitating.
After causing shingles, the virus again goes “back to sleep” inside your nerves. But it can still flare up again.
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How Long Is Shingles Contagious
Shingles is not contagious. But if someone comes into contact with the rash at a certain stage, they may contract the varicella-zoster virus and develop chickenpox. If they have chickenpox, shingles can develop later in life.
To prevent the virus from being transmitted, keep shingles rashes covered. Cover the rash from when the blisters appear to when they crust and scab over. According to the , this usually takes 7 to 10 days.
The rash will usually clear after 2 to 4 weeks.
Incidence Of Second Cases
According to the CDC, “Immunity following varicella infection is considered to be long-lasting and second cases of varicella are thought to be rare. However, second cases may occur more commonly among immunocompetent persons than previously considered.”
Fortunately, with the rise in the use of the chickenpox vaccine, the incidence of first and second cases of chickenpox is much less common these days.
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Is There A Vaccine Against Shingles
Shingix is currently the only shingles vaccine available in the United States. Its given to people over age 50.
Previously, an additional vaccine, Zostavax, was used, but it was phased out in the United States as of November 2020.
According to the CDC, two doses of Shingrix are over 90 percent effective at preventing shingles. Youll retain at least 85 percent protection for 4 years after being vaccinated.
If you get shingles after being vaccinated, your symptoms will likely be less severe. Youll also have a lower chance of developing postherpetic neuralgia a complication where pain remains even after a shingles rash goes away.
Shingles usually follows a pattern of development. It typically progresses with the following symptoms:
- First, you may notice a tingling or burning sensation in your skin.
- One to 5 days later a rash appears as small red spots.
- Fluid-filled blisters develop a few days later.
- After 7 to 10 days, the lesions crust over.
- The rash disappears over the next 2 to 4 weeks.
In some cases, pain may persist for several months or even years after the rash has disappeared. This complication, known as postherpetic neuralgia , can be severe enough to affect your quality of life.
What Problems Can Happen
Most cases of shingles heal on their own, with or without treatment, and won’t lead to any other problems. In rare cases, shingles can lead to complications, including:
- Ongoing pain : Damaged nerve fibers in the skin send confused messages to the brain, leading to pain. Pain can go on for a long time after the shingles rash is gone. This is the most common shingles complication.
- Vision problems: Shingles near or in an eye can lead to vision loss.
- Skin infections: A shingles rash can become infected with bacteria, leading to impetigo or cellulitis.
- Nervous system problems: Shingles on the face can involve different nerves that connect to the brain. This can lead to nerve-related problems such as facial paralysis, hearing problems, and problems with balance. In very rare cases, shingles can lead to encephalitis .
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What To Do If Your Child Gets Shingles:
If you think your child may have shingles, call his or her doctor immediately. If its a mild case, your child may not need treatment. To ease symptoms and prevent shingles from getting worse, the doctor may prescribe:
- Anti-viral medication
- A cream, spray, or skin patch to numb the skin
- Over-the-counter pain medication
Do You Always Get The Typical Rash If You Have Shingles
Occasionally, some people dont get a rash. If you have any of the other symptoms of shingles , see your healthcare provider sooner rather than later. There are effective treatments you can take early for shingles. Even if you dont have shingles, seeing your healthcare provider will help you get your condition diagnosed and treated.
Shingles Can Strike Twice Will The Shingles Vaccine Help
No one who has experienced the burning, stabbing, painful misery of shingles wants to think about it again. But they should. Why? Because shingles can strike twice, or rarely, even a third time. A shingles vaccine can reduce the chances of a recurrence.
Theres some disagreement about how often recurrence occurs. In one study, researchers examined medical records of nearly 1,700 patients who had a documented case of shingles between 1996 and 2001. They found that more than 5% of these patients were treated for a second episode within an average of eight years. Thats about as likely as getting shingles in the first place if youre age 60 or older. Other studies have shown the recurrence rate to be much lower.
But the bottom line is the same: having shingles once doesnt protect you from ever having it again.
Can You Get Shingles More Than Once
Shingles is a severe skin rash caused by the herpes zoster virus, which also causes chickenpox. Those affected typically only experience the condition once . However, in rare cases, shingles recurs.
Estimates vary as to how common recurrence is. Some populations, including those that are immunocompromised, are more prone to it. One wide-ranging study found that as many as 5% of those who experience the condition develop it again within eight years.
Clearly, its worth looking at why this happens, what the risk factors are, as well as how to prevent shingles relapse.
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Where Does Shingles Come From
When you have chickenpox as a child, your body fights off the varicella-zoster virus and the physical signs of chickenpox fade away, but the virus always remains in your body. In adulthood, sometimes the virus becomes active again. This time, the varicella-zoster virus makes its second appearance in the form of shingles.
How Do You Get Chickenpox
Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease that transmits easily from person to person. Breathing the air a person with chickenpox exhales, coughs, or sneezes can expose you to it. Chickenpox can also spread through contact with the fluid in the rash blisters.
If you have chickenpox, youll be infectious for about two days before the rash develops. Youll stay infectious until the blisters fully crust over.
You can contract chickenpox through contact with a person who actively has it, such as by:
- being in the room with them for at least 15 minutes
- touching their blisters
- touching items that have been recently contaminated with their breath or fluid from their blisters
If youre susceptible to chickenpox, its possible to contract it if you touch the rash of a person with shingles.
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How To Avoid Spreading Shingles
The varicella-zoster virus is typically less likely to be transmitted with shingles than with chickenpox. However, the varicella-zoster virus can be passed on from the time that your symptoms start until your rash and blisters have crusted dry.
If you have shingles and are otherwise healthy, you can still go out in public or to work. But be sure to follow these tips:
- Keep the shingles rash clean and covered. This can help prevent other people from coming into contact with your blisters.
- Wash your hands often. Also, try not to touch the blisters.
- Avoid being around pregnant people. The varicella-zoster virus can cause serious health risks for both pregnant people and their babies. Risks include pneumonia and permanent damage to the unborn child. If you find you have shingles after spending time with someone whos pregnant, let them know at once so they can ask their OB-GYN for advice. Be especially careful to avoid pregnant people who havent had chickenpox or the vaccine for it.
- Avoid other at-risk people. Stay away from premature babies, infants with low birth weights, and children who havent yet had chickenpox or its vaccine. Also, avoid people with weakened immune systems. These include people living with HIV, organ transplant recipients, and people taking immunosuppressant medications or having chemotherapy.
Doctors recommend the chickenpox vaccine for children. Preventing chickenpox will also prevent shingles.
You can get the vaccine
Why Doesnt Having Chickenpox Earlier In Life Provide Immunity Against Having Shingles Later
After having chickenpox, your body doesnt rid your system of the virus. Instead, the virus stays in a portion of the spinal nerve root called the dorsal root ganglion. In most people, the virus simply stays there quietly and doesnt cause problems. Scientists arent always sure why the virus gets active again, but they know stress can be a cause.
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What Should I Do About An Exposure To Varicella
If you have been in contact with someone with chickenpox or shingles, or if you have a rash-associated illness that might be chickenpox or shingles, discuss your situation with your healthcare provider. Blood tests may be done to see if you have become infected with the virus or have had the disease in the past. If you are pregnant and not immune and have been exposed to chickenpox or shingles, call your healthcare provider immediately. Your provider may choose to treat you with a medication called varicella-zoster immune globulin , but in order for this medication to be most helpful, it needs to be given as soon as possible after your exposure to varicella.
What Should You Expect If You Get Shingles
Shingles can be a very painful condition. If you think you have the symptoms of shingles, see your healthcare provider right away. Starting antiviral medications early can ease your discomfort and end symptoms earlier.
A better approach to shingles is to take action and do what you can to lessen your risk of getting it. If you’ve never had shingles in the past, talk to your healthcare provider about getting the shingles vaccine. If youve never had chickenpox, talk with your healthcare provider about getting the chickenpox vaccine.
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Preventing The Virus Spreading
If you have the shingles rash, do not share towels or flannels, go swimming, or play contact sports. This will help prevent the virus being passed on to someone who has not had chickenpox.
You should also avoid work or school if your rash is weeping and cannot be covered.
Chickenpox can be particularly dangerous for certain groups of people. If you have shingles, avoid:
- women who are pregnant and have not had chickenpox before as they could catch it from you, which may harm their unborn baby
- people who have a weak immune system, such as someone with HIV or AIDS
- babies less than one month old, unless it is your own baby, in which case your baby should have antibodies to protect them from the virus
Once your blisters have dried and scabbed over, you are no longer contagious and will not need to avoid anyone.
Who Is Susceptible To Developing Shingles
According to the CDC, more than 99 percent of Americans 40 years and older have had chickenpox.
Its important to note that even if you dont remember having the disease, it may be lying dormant in your body. Therefore, much of Americas population of people 40 and older are susceptible to developing shingles.
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What Are The Risk Factors For Recurring Shingles
People dont know what causes recurring shingles, but certain factors increase your chances of getting shingles again.
People with weakened immune systems are more likely to get shingles again. One study determined that the rate of shingles recurrence was among people with compromised immune systems. This is about 2.4 times higher than for those who didnt have compromised immune systems.
You may have a compromised immune system if you:
- are getting chemotherapy or radiation therapy
- have organ transplants
- are taking high doses of corticosteroids like prednisone
Additional risk factors include:
- longer-lasting and more severe pain with the first case of shingles
- pain for 30 days or more with the first case of shingles
- being over the age of 50
Having one or more blood relatives with shingles may also increase your risk of getting shingles.