How To Stop The Shingles Spread?

Do you know what shingles is? Shingles is also known as herpes zoster, and it’s a virus that causes painful rashes. This virus can be passed on to someone else if they come in contact with the rash or touch something that has touched the rash. The good news is that there are many ways to stop the spread of this virus! We will discuss how you can prevent the spread of this virus.

Firstly, we should address the common misconception that a person who has shingles can spread shingles to another person. This is not true. A person must have had chickenpox previously if they develop shingles. However, that is not to say that the varicella-zoster virus is not infectious. Typically, a person who has never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine may be infected with varicella-zoster virus from a person who has shingles. This person goes on to develop chickenpox and not shingles.

Transmission of the virus usually occurs via droplets, aerosol, direct contact, or by touching contaminated items (World Health Organization, 2014) such as dressings, sheets, or clothes soiled with discharge from a person who has either chickenpox or shingles. While shingles can spread through the air, the risk is said to be low. This is because the virus spreads two main ways: through direct contact with the open sores of the shingles rash or through contact with the fluid from the shingles sores. Therefore, the stage when one is most infectious is when there are open and fluid-filled blisters being exposed. When these blisters start to dry and crust over, it becomes less contagious.

To prevent transmission of the virus, be it through the air or otherwise, people who have an active infection should consider the following measures:

  • Cover open blisters with loose clothing or non-stick dressing, or in cases where shingles are all over the body or exposed, e.g., face, isolated in a single room until all lesions have crusted over. Going to work or school is also not recommended.
  • Prevent others from coming into contact with anything that might have touched the fluid from the shingles sores. Do not share clothes or towels with other uninfected persons, and thoroughly wash or disinfect contaminated clothing.
  • Avoid contact with the following people until the rash crusts: pregnant women who have never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine; premature or low birth weight infants; people with weakened immune systems, such as people receiving immunosuppressants or undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplant recipients, and people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.
  • Seek medical treatment as soon as possible so that the open blisters can heal quickly, as the fluid from the blisters is highly infectious. The doctor may prescribe antiviral medicines such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir to reduce the duration and severity of the infection or topical ointments for relieving shingles that typically contain topical acyclovir, lidocaine, and/or capsaicin. Treatment is most effective when started within 72 hours of the onset of the blisters.
  • In the case of oral shingles, a face mask may be helpful to catch aerosols and droplets when one coughs or sneezes. However, one should also dispose of the face mask such that others do not come into contact with the contaminated face mask.

If you do not have an active infection, getting vaccinated against shingles is a good idea to stop the virus from spreading to others. It is essential preventive care that older adults should not delay or discontinue because of the current COVID-19 pandemic (unless suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19). Typically, two doses are administered within the recommended interval of 2 to 6 months. You should not delay any other vaccinations just because you have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.

With the amount of data collected in recent months, the CDC (Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, which is under the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services) now reports that it is safe to administer COVID-19 vaccines that are currently authorized for use by the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) together with other vaccines without regard to timing. Coadministration within 14 days or even simultaneous administration of the COVID-19 vaccine together with other vaccines on the same day is now permissible (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021). However, one should also check with their healthcare provider to assess the risk on a case-by-case basis.

After receiving the shingles vaccine, it is possible that one will experience both local reactions, such as redness, pain, or swelling at the injection site, and systemic reactions, which include fever, chills, headache, and body aches. These are usually resolved within 72 hours after vaccination (Immunization Action Coalition, 2020).

If a fever develops after vaccination, stay home until the fever has fully subsided for 24 hours. The shingles vaccine should not cause any respiratory symptoms that are common in COVID-19, such as cough or shortness of breath. If such symptoms develop, or if the fever does not subside even after 72 hours of vaccination, one should contact their healthcare provider as soon as possible. If a vaccine recipient develops emergency warning signs for COVID-19, emergency medical care should be sought immediately.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, August 23). Interim clinical considerations for use of covid-19 vaccines. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Immunization Action Coalition. (2020, October 22). Ask the experts. Ask the Experts about COVID-19 and Routine Vaccination – IAC experts answer Q&As

World Health Organization. (2014, April 30). Varicella. World Health Organization

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