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Jul 18, 2001

Hi Judith,

When a person (who is HIV-) is exposed to a Shingles virus in a person who is HIV+ person by touching one of Shingle sores does he get HIV transferred to himself or he would get chickenpox (if he didnt have it before ) ...


Response from Dr. Aberg

No, you do not get HIV by touching the rash caused by Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV, the shingles virus). VZV is a herpes virus that causes two clinical diseases, chickenpox and shingles. One question I have is, why are you touching someone's lesions? If by accident, okay. But you should not purposefully be touching these lesions. They can become superinfected (meaning that a bacteria such as Staph can cause more infection in the skin).

The risk of getting chickenpox from someone with shingles is less than getting it from someone who has chickenpox. Nevertheless, the risk is still there. It is recommended that people who have not had chickenpox, pregnant women and immunocompromised people should not be near people who have VZV. The contagious period is about 2 days before the rash appears and until the vesicles (blisters,rash) have crusted over.

The incubation period is between 10-20 days. This is the time from when one is first exposed to VZV to the time one becomes sick. If you get it, you should see your doctor immediately. Starting anti-VZV therapy immediately reduces the number of days one is ill and can decrease the risk of complications. Hopefully you were exposed to VZV in the past and you have immunity and will not get ill.

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