I have shingles and want to visit my friends and family. Can I spread shingles or chickenpox to other people? What if my grandchildren haven't had chickenpox disease or their chickenpox vaccinations?

Question: 

I have shingles and want to visit my friends and family. Can I spread shingles or chickenpox to other people? What if my grandchildren haven't had chickenpox disease or their chickenpox vaccinations?

Answer: 
Shingles cannot spread from one person to another. However, the virus that causes shingles (varicella-zoster virus) can spread from a person with active shingles to someone who is not immune to chickenpox (most people have had a chickenpox infection or vaccinated against chickenpox).
 
A person with active shingles can spread the virus through direct contact with fluid from the rash blisters. Shingles are less contagious than chickenpox, and the risk of a person with shingles spreading the virus is low if the rash is covered. Once the rash has developed crusts, the person is no longer infectious. If you have shingles, you should:
 
  • Cover the rash, avoid touching or scratching the rash and wash your hands often to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Avoid close contact with people until the rash blisters heal (develop crusts).
  • It is essential to avoid contact with people at higher risk from chickenpox infection. Higher risk groups include pregnant women, infants, children, or anyone who has never had chickenpox; anyone who is currently ill; anyone with a weak immune system that cannot fight infection (such as someone with HIV infection or diabetes).
If you have other concerns about your health, speak with your primary care provider or call 811 to speak with a nurse. 
 
Date last reviewed: 
Tuesday, Feb 01, 2022