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Vasculitis UK
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I want to 'Pick' everyone's brains here. I was told, when I was first diagnosed (Non-Specific ANCA Vasculitis-Several 'Overlapping' Strains) to avoid Chicken Pox. Apparently this 'Childhood Disease' could be fatal. My father, who I haven't seen since September, now tells me he has Shingles which is caused by the same virus. My question is therefore two-fold.

Firstly how Contagious is Shingles, bearing in mind I'm on Immuno-Suppressants? Secondly, given that he IS contagious, how long until he isn't?

Ordinarily, when I stay there, I have my 'own' room but clearly share the Communal areas. Generally speaking My Father, Step Mother and I would all eat together. The food having been prepared in their home.

We would all appreciate some guidance here as, 'Me and Dad', don't see much of each other.

I'd put 'Thanking you in anticipation' but I can't spell all that, so I'll just say Thanks.


15 Replies

Hi Andrew,

Shingles isn’t contagious in the same way that Chickenpox is.

You would need to come into contact with the fluid from the shingles vesicles which would then need to breach your skin for you to be at risk. The risk therefore is minimal.

If you come into contact with chickenpox ( which is spread via droplet infection ) then you need to get a blood test to make sure you have antibodies to the virus.

Hope that helps



Lynn's already answered, but I'll chime in too if that's ok. I ended up in hospital with chickenpox in 1998, caught from a stranger, who could have had either chickenpox or shingles.

Yes you can catch chickenpox from shingles. Even if you've had chickenpox before (I hadn't). It spreads through the liquid from the rash / pustules. Shingles isn't as contagious as chickenpox, so doesn't spread by air droplets breathed out. The risk is you getting in contact with the liquid from your dad's rash. As long as he keeps the rash covered up, and you don't share bedding or towels etc. (obviously unlikely!) you should probably be fine.

Shingles takes about a month to ease off. How soon are you seeing your Dad? If it was me I would just go :) And have a good time. But obviously make sure you don't get in contact with the infectious bit.

Good luck! Thank you for asking this. I'm always on about chickenpox and shingles in the Facebook group, answering queries about them there. I've become quite evangelical about it since my own week in hospital in 1998. Then I got shingles in 2010, in the month before my PhD viva. Made for rather a different viva preparation period than expected!

All the best.

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I have GPA and was told to keep away from people with shingles and chickpox as it can be particular nasty or fatal for those with my type of vaculitis


I have MPA and I too was advised to keep away from people with shingles or chickenpox


I have just answered 'Jeffo', saying that I think that I will ask my own Consultant, about this.


Hi Andrew, are you on Retuximab and or other treatment forms. In most contra-indications and warnings they suggest avoiding contact with contageous diseases. However with Retuximab, they specifically target chicken pox as, yes it is a nasty infection,especially in adult form even in otherwise fit and health people. Whilst you are immuno compromised the tendency would be to have a more severe infection. However it will not necessarily be fatal. This applies to those individuals with more severel underlying, chronic and debilitating medical issues.

Currently (would you believe it) I developed SHINGLES a week ago and I suffer GPA / Vasculitis and currently on my third Retuximab. As you may know shingles is the same virus as chicken pox. My young granddaughter had chicken pox a couple of weeks back. If you have had chicken pox in the past, and come into contact with the same virus in later life, you will have shingles (not chicken pox). It is not airbourne contageous but can be passed on through poor hygiene when sores weep. I was given anti-viral meds at the onset and that is important. So, if by any chance you do pick up the virus you must get anti-viral cover, it will help to reduce the severity of the condition (both chicken pox and or shingles).

I am in a great deal of pain at the moment, but trust me, I am not dead yet.

Hope this helps



Hi Jeffo,

It’s not possible to catch shingles from Chickenpox regardless of whether you have had chickenpox in the past.

When we have chickenpox the virus ( herpes zoster ) lives on in the root nerve. It’s re activated as shingles ( which characteristically follows a nerve ) , the trigger for this includes things like stress, illness and immunosupression etc.

Some patients who have had chickenpox don’t develop immunity to it which is why if an immunosupressed individual comes into contact with Chickenpox they need to have a blood test to get their antibodies checked.

Theoretically it’s posdible to catch chickenpox from shingles but in practice it’s very unlikely. The best source of information about chickenpox is the “ Green Book “ as it has a section for the immunosupressed as well.



Hi Keyes,

Yes absolutely, wasn't indicating that you can catch shingles from CP ( don't know where you got that from) and am fully aware of nerve root function. (I am a health professional not that it makes a difference). However, when someone is immunospressed, anti-virals BEFORE blood testing is best practice. The first 72 hours is crucial in this case.


I got that from what you posted above, I quote

If you have had chicken pox in the past, and come into contact with the same virus in later life, you will have shingles (not chicken pox).

I suspect you are getting anti virals and immunoglobulin mixed up. The green book is very clear that a blood test is needed and if the patient has no antibodies then they should be given immunoglobulins.

Of course happy to be proved wrong, perhaps you could cite the evidence base for prophylactic anti virals before blood tests?




What do you mean by typical?

So providing the right information on here isn’t important?


Have just realised that you mean if patients have symptoms of chickenpox or shingles then anti virals are needed within the first 72 hours.

I thought you meant contact with the virus in which case it’s a blood test and then immunoglobulin if required.


Dear Jeffo,

Thank you for your reply, which does make a lot of sense. However I have been advised, by my Doctors/Consultants, that any contact could, in my case, be VERY dangerous. I have never been on Rituximab though I do know of it. My root was Azathioprine, pre Kidney transplant (July 2013), and Tacrolimus since- both along with Prednisolone. I am on other drugs, as well, just to 'complicate' things.

I will speak to my own Consultant, regarding this- probably my Safest action.

Once again, thank you for your advice. I hope that You recover well.

Warmest wishes



Hi Andrew, yes of course you have organ involvement which could increase your sisceptability. Anti virals an avoidance is necessary in yor case. Hopeall goes well.


Hi Andrew, I've had 3 separate outbreaks of shingles as a result of immunosuppression with Mycophenolate. Each time, for some reason, they were small patches and didnt develop further. They cleared up within a week and i kept them covered etc. I had chickenpox as a child. You've been given good advice here so take every precaution that you can to protect yourself from any infectious disease. Having a depressed immune system can render you susceptible to any of them. You can get vaccinated against shingles through your gp surgery so it might be worth asking. Saying that I dont know much about the vaccine but others here will be able to better inform you.


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