How contagious am I? (Varicella Zoster Virus, AKA Shingles)

On Wednesday the rash showed up. I showed it to my roommates and one of them thought it was Shingles. She didn’t seem too concerned about it at that time, though. At that time it was too late to find a doctor. (I have no regular doctor or insurance.) So I read up on it in Wikipedia.
I went to do student teaching on Thursday and then went to a Minor Care Unit to get diagnosed. They told me not to go back to school until Tuesday, and their main concern seemed to be pregnant women. They weren’t concerned about me working at a pizza place on the weekend, as long as there were no pregnant women there.
Today my roommate gets home. I inform her that it is indeed Shingles. Now she is extremely concerned, saying that she has never been vaccinated or had Chicken Pox.

Wikipediasays this:

How worried does she need to be? We aren’t intimate by any means, but we do share a bathroom. Is she safe as long as she doesn’t touch anything that my sores have touched? Or would she have to actually touch my sores to get it? Does she need to stay at her boyfriend’s house for a week or so?

Also, the quote above implies that if she becomes a “newly-infected individual”, she won’t necessarily develop chickenpox. What are the odds, and if her system fights it off, is she now essentially vaccinated?

I don’t think that this violates the rule about soliciting medical advice, since I have seen a doctor and been prescribed medicine which I am taking. I’m not asking for medical advice for myself, but for precaution advice for my roommate.

Wow, that’s one of the most poorly written articles I’ve seen on wikipedia!

Yes, varicella is contagious, and if a person hasn’t had chicken pox, they can get chicken pox from your shingles. There’s a lot of debate as to when you’re contagious. Some sources say one day before the rash starts, some say up to 5 days before the rash. Some say until the last bit of rash scabs over, some say 5-6 days after that.

Varicella if you have it as chicken pox is transmitted by droplets of liquid on the rash, by air (coughs, sneezes, spit), or by contact with surfaces and things the rash or your bodily fluids have touched. But varicella if you have it as *shingles *is only spread by direct contact with your rash. It’s much less contagious as shingles than as chicken pox.

More important than her, though, are any men or boys older than 12 in your life who have not been vaccinated or had chicken pox who might have hugged or touched you in the area of the rash recently. Getting chicken pox as an adult sucks for anyone, but for men it can lead to sterility.

I do not know how quickly the varicella vaccine works, or if it’s recommended post-exposure, but it’s worth calling a doctor for more information for your friends. (And if you find out, could you let me know? This is something a nurse should know, I think.)

:confused: How could anyone ensure that no pregnant women would come into a pizza place? What do you do at the pizza place? It seems like a bad idea for a contagious person to be working in contact with food or the public.

I wondered this, too. But I’d think it would depend on where the rash is. When my mom had shingles, she had the rash on what I understand is the most common spot, near her waist. If the OP isn’t rolling around nekkid on the pizza dough, the odds would probably be pretty small if direct contact with the rash is required for transmission. If the rash is on the OP’s hands or is not covered by clothing, I assume it would be a different story.

If I were the roomie, I’d leave for a week or two. I got chicken pox as an adult, and it was the most agonizing time of my life. I had to focus on getting through five minutes at a time. I understand shingles is more painful. When Mom had it, she heard stories about people who committed suicide because of the pain. (OT–Why do people feel obliged to tell you about others who had your same illness or injury, only much worse?) I don’t know what the odds are the roomie would get shingles, but who wants to spend a week thinking every zit or tingle is the onset of shingles?

Regardless of your level of contagion, your roomate is an everloving moron if she hasn’t had chicken pox, is an adult, and has not been vaccinated. Doesn’t she know you can die? Or be permanently scarred?

I don’t know why my roommate A.) has never had chickenpox B.) has not been vaccinated, and C.) knows enough about this to recognize Shingles by sight and know the dangers posed to her despite A. and B.

In my case the rash is around my waist. Therefore, when I am properly dressed my rash is covered by 2 - 4 layers of clothing (underwear, T-shirt, pants, shirt).

(Right now, in my own home with my roommates conviently away, I am walking around [edited for the sake of decency], letting the rash air out and minimizing anything touching it.)

If it’s around your waist, and that’s almost always covered, I’d think the risk is substantially less. But now I’m wondering again about the no-pregnant-women caution. If the virus is only spread by direct contact with the rash, why would a pregnant woman be at any more risk than anyone else? The only way this would make any sense is if the virus is, in hopefully rare instances, spread in other ways; in that case, even if the risk of contagion is small, you wouldn’t want to endanger the fetus, I would think.

And what are you supposed to do if a pregnant woman enters the restaurant? Run out the back door?

It’s a shame the clinic didn’t give you more information. I’d sure call them and get answers.