Shingles is a painful rash caused by an infection of a nerve underneath the skin with the varicella-zoster virus. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox but it is not the same illness.
Most people have chickenpox at some stage (usually as a child). The virus remains dormant in the nerve roots next to the spinal cord. Sometimes a period of stress or illness can trigger the virus and it begins to multiply. Shingles results from a reactivation of the virus.1
The following is a summary about the disease. For further details speak to your local pharmacist or GP.
Shingles cannot be passed from one person to another.
Someone with an activated shingles infection can spread chickenpox to another person who has never had chickenpox.2 Only people who have never had chickenpox are at risk of catching chickenpox from the shingles infection.
The shingles rash is contagious and spread via direct contact with the blisters. Covering up the rash can help to minimise spread of the infection.
Pregnant women and those who are immunocompromised are advised to minimised direct contact with shingles infection.1
About 1 in 4 people have shingles. Those who are considered at a higher risk include:
The first signs include:
After several days a rash can appear:
When the rash is present, symptoms can range to mild itching to intense pain. The rash and pain usually disappears within 3-5 weeks.
Occasional complications of shingles include:
Loose-fitting cotton clothes are best to reduce irritating the affected area of skin.
Pain may be eased by cooling the affected area with ice cubes (wrapped in a plastic bag), wet dressings, or a cool bath. A non-adherent dressing that covers the rash when it is blistered and raw may help to reduce pain caused by contact with clothing.
It is possible to travel with a shingles infection but best to check with the airline and receive a fit to fly letter from a doctor confirming that the rash is not contagious.
A shingles vaccine is available on the NHS for people who are aged 70 and 78. It helps reduce the risk of getting shingles. It is still possible to get shingles after being vaccinated but the symptoms are much milder.3
A live, attenuated (weakened) shingles vaccination is available in the UK. The vaccine is effective for at least 5 years post vaccination.4
This information is taken from trusted third party websites, NaTHNaC (Travel Health Pro) and EMIS (Patient info) and use of all information has been licenced under the Open Government Licence http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/.
Although the materials are being used/replicated under the provisions of the Open Government Licence this in no way represents endorsement of Traveljab.co.uk by NaTHNaC, Emis, Public Health England, the NHS or the Department of Health and Social Care.