How Common Is Shingles Among People Who Have Never Had Chickenpox?

You will be in a lot of pain and discomfort with shingles and chickenpox. Both shingles and chickenpox begin with a generalized rash. But shingles may develop into painful blisters that are localized to a single dermatome and do not cross the midline, whereas chickenpox causes an irritating itch.

The article will examine if one can get shingles if they have never contracted chickenpox.

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Can you get shingles if you’ve never had chickenpox?

Although the varicella-zoster virus causes both shingles and chickenpox, a person who has never had chickenpox or has never been vaccinated against it cannot contract shingles from an infected person.

Primary infection with the varicella-zoster virus, the causative agent of shingles, results in a vesicular skin rash acutely termed chickenpox. The rash ultimately subsides, but the virus remains latent in neural tissue. Anyone who develops shingles has likely already been infected with chickenpox earlier. 

Although shingles may form elsewhere on the body, the classic rash is blisters in a single band (dermatome, single innervation area of a “nerve tract”) that do not cross the midline. The risk of getting shingles increases with age or immunosuppression, but it may happen to anybody who has previously had chickenpox or been vaccinated against it.

If you were ever infected with chickenpox as a child, your immune system got the acute infection under control, but the virus never completely vanished. Whenever this occurred, the virus fell latent in nervous tissue. The virus can remain dormant here for years and then reactivate and cause shingles.

It is possible to get chickenpox from someone who has shingles when they are in the blister stage of the disease and are infectious.

Who is at risk of contracting chickenpox?

Steroid-containing drugs are among those that have been linked to shingles outbreaks.

Shingles can appear in anybody who has previously had chickenpox. Those vaccinated against it can also get it, though the risk in this context is lower. 

It's more likely to happen to those over 50 since the risk rises with age. People with compromised immune systems, such as cancer patients or those who are HIV-positive, are more likely to get shingles.

Should you get the shingles vaccine if you’ve never had chickenpox?

It's worth noting that in 2017, the FDA authorized a new vaccination against shingles called Shingrix. This newer vaccination has replaced the older Zostavax in most cases. If you have already had the previous vaccination, discuss receiving Shingrix with your doctor, especially if it’s been several years since you received the vaccine.

People vaccinated against chickenpox have an extremely low risk of developing chickenpox or shingles. However, the danger remains for adults and children who did not get the vaccination.

People over 50 who are otherwise healthy may take measures to reduce their risk of developing shingles. 

It is recommended that you discuss receiving the shingles vaccination with your doctor. It can lower the likelihood of infection, mitigate its effects if it does occur, and protect against further consequences like chronic nerve pain.

What is the difference between shingles and chickenpox?

The hope is that by clarifying the distinctions between shingles and chickenpox, you will be better able to safeguard your loved ones of all ages from the itchiness and suffering associated with this ailment.

Chickenpox

Those who have not been immunized against chickenpox will get a painful rash that will scab over in 4–7 days. The rash often starts on the trunk and face, but as the infection advances, it may appear elsewhere on the body. The absence of appetite, fever, and extreme tiredness are other symptoms.

Although the vaccination has significantly reduced the risk of developing chickenpox, the illness is still present and may spread quickly. The vaccination requires two doses and is most effective for kids before school. Vaccination is also strongly recommended for people who have never been vaccinated or have never had chickenpox, particularly if they’re at high risk for exposure and transmission, such as military personnel or college students.

Even while the chickenpox vaccine cannot entirely prevent the disease, it helps lessen the severity of symptoms if they arise, has a far lower risk of spreading, and the risk of breakthrough varicella is less than 1%.¹

Shingles

Preventative measures should be taken to avoid the excruciating agony caused by shingles. A rash can appear on one side of the body and is painful and sensitive to the touch. However, there have been reports of instances in which no inflammation is evident on presentation, just localized nerve discomfort that lasts for a few weeks.

Symptoms of shingles often begin with itching, burning, or tingling in a localized region of the skin before the rash appears. In addition, you could have a headache, a fever, or a generalized feeling of illness. The rash usually begins a few days later as a narrow band of blisters on one body section. Extreme tiredness is a further symptom.

Shingles, like chickenpox, are an exceptionally infectious illness. Persons who are not immune, such as those who have never been vaccinated or who have never had chickenpox, are at risk of contracting the disease via an infected person's open sores as well as from inhalation of aerosols in an airborne fashion. On the other hand, the exposed individual will get chickenpox instead of shingles.

After a person has had chickenpox, the virus often attaches itself to the ganglia (parts of the nervous system) and lies latent there. Infected individuals may have a second outbreak of the virus years later, often beyond the age of 50, when the shingles can symptomatically manifest. 

When to consult a doctor?

Consult a physician if you or a loved one has a painful, red rash. Your doctor will determine the root of your illness and suggest a course of therapy, whether chickenpox, shingles, or something else. Ask your doctor whether you, your kid or your elderly parent may be eligible for the recommended chickenpox and shingles immunizations.

Prevention and treatment for shingles

CDC and ACIP recommend that you get vaccinated against shingles. The recommended immunization is Shingrix, a two-dose shot.² ³

Shingles usually last three to five weeks, although the disease ultimately clears up. A doctor may help you deal with the pain and discomfort of shingles by prescribing pain medication and antivirals.

The lowdown

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which may come back and cause shingles in susceptible people. Even though shingles cause you to break out in a rash, this is different from the chickenpox rash.

Although shingles outbreaks may occur everywhere on the body, they most often manifest on the chest, torso, shoulder, and back in a single dermatome and do not cross the midline.

Shingles are more frequent among the elderly, which is why vaccination is advised for anyone 50 and above. Vaccination against shingles is a crucial part of preventative care as you grow older.

A person's risk of developing shingles begins from the day they are exposed to the chickenpox virus. This is because the same virus, the varicella-zoster virus, is responsible for both shingles and chickenpox. The varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox, may remain latent in a person's body for a very long time after the first infection.

  1. Varicella disease after introduction of varicella vaccine in the United States, 1995-2000 (2002)

  2. Shingrix recommendations | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  3. Zoster (Shingles) ACIP vaccine recommendations | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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