Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"If I've had chicken pox could I still get shingles?"
My boyfriend has shingles so I'm a little worried about close contact. I've had chicken pox though. Does this mean that I'm safe from getting shingles?
Yes, you are at risk of getting shingles if you have already had chicken pox. In fact, you can only get shingles if you have been exposed to the virus that causes chicken pox (ie, varicella zoster). This virus can cause the skin disease that you are probably familiar with (red and itchy pock marks spread throughout the body's skin). After this acute illness, the virus does not permanently leave the body, but rather lays dormant in the body's nerve roots. Even after several decades, typically as a person ages or becomes immunocompromised, the virus can become reactivated. When this happens, viral particles travel down the nerves to the skin, causing shingles. The area of skin supplied by these nerves will be affected, typically causing a burning or electric pain sensation followed by an outbreak of vesicles. A person with shingles can transmit the varicella virus to others, but this will not affect someone that has already been exposed to varicella and had chicken pox in the past. If someone that has never been exposed to chicken pox comes into contact with a person experiencing an active shingles flare, then he/she may develop a case of chicken pox. I would suggest a visit with a primary care provider to better help you assess your risk. Best of luck.
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