Just How Long Are Shingles Contagious? It's human nature if someone tells you they have shingles to have your brain tell you to run the other way. But before you beat-feet and embarrass yourself, let’s run down some simple facts about shingles.
Shingles is a virus, albeit a nasty one, that is temporary and usually never fatal. Shingles are the after effects of having chicken pox. In fact, shingles and chicken pox both are part of the herpes family, but only minor cousins to the herpes virus that causes mouth sores or genital blisters (the dreaded STD).
Shingles reside in the nervous system after having and recovering from chicken pox. A shingles flare up is generally brought on by a major emotional or health trauma like stress, immune deficiencies and cancer. Shingles form rashes that blister up (like chicken pox), pop and ooze, crust over and then finally heal.
With shingles you are contagious pretty much the whole time the blisters are forming, popping and crusting over. You are contagious until all the blisters have crusted over completely, when no new blisters are forming and the seeping has stopped.
Now, just who are you contagious too? If you have shingles you are only contagious to those around you who have never had chicken pox. Those unlucky souls won’t catch shingles, but they will catch the chicken pox. Those who have had the chicken pox cannot catch what you have.
So if you have shingles, we give you our sincerest heart-felt sympathies. But you can still surround yourself with friends and family who have had the chicken pox—and you must be shunned by those who have not.