What are the potential dangers of an infant (<4 months old) being around (and handled by) a person with shingles? Is there any stage of the condition that is dangerous to the infant? How can you tell when a person's case of shingles poses a threat to the infant? The staging of a case of shingles seems inprecise: open sores only?, after they heal but still itch?, etc. I've heard that shingles poses no threat to an infant in it's later stages but it's sometimes hard to determine when a reaccuring case is just beginning or clearing up. Please help!
You are aware that herpes zoster (shingles) represents the reactivation of an earlier infection with the chickenpox virus. The characteristic rash of herpes zoster consists of a linear arrangement of small blisters aligned along the course of a peripheral sensory nerve. The fluid in the blisters contains the active chickenpox virus and can be transmitted to susceptible individuals. Fortunately, an otherwise healthy infant, even one less than four months old, is at no greater risk of complications from chickenpox than are older children. Having said that, chickenpox is the source of considerable misery, and may occasionally lead to severe secondary infections in healthy infants and children. It can be deadly for those who are immunocompromised. It is thus fortunate that an excellent vaccine now is available for administration to children beginning at one year of age.
This information is provided for educational purposes only. I trust it will be helpful. You should obtain the opinion of your family pediatrician about the actual risk of transmission which obtains in your particular situation.
Key Words: chickenpox, herpes zoster, shingles
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