Shingles itself isn't contagious, but people exposed to the disease who never had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine can become infected with the varicella zoster virus through direct contact with the rash's open lesions and develop chickenpox. To avoid passing along the virus, keep any open lesions covered until they form scabs.

If You Get Shingles

Shingles treatment typically consists of an antiviral drug such as acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) or valacyclovir (Valtrex), but only about half of patients receive relief from them.

The drugs are most effective when they're started within 72 hours after the shingles rash developed. Your doctor may also prescribe a pain reliever. Shingles generally clears up with no treatment in two to four weeks.

If you're one of the unlucky people who gets shingles even after having the vaccine, you still benefit: Cases of shingles in vaccinated adults are less severe and last for a shorter time than in adults not vaccinated.

Source: Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 17 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 26 Feb 2015