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Infectious Diseases

Can mother or child contract chicken pox as a

04/17/2003

Question:

I am a grandmother who has recently be diagnosed with shingles. Daughter-in-law now pregnant, I was to take care of current little girl, they are concerned the mother or child could get something from me because of the chicken pox connection. Is this a concern?

Answer:

Shingles is caused by reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus. Therefore, if someone has not previously had chickenpox, then they could potentially acquire infection from someone with shingles. It is much less common and there has to be more direct contact than being exposed to someone with chickenpox itself. In that form of the infection, it is spread principally by children coughing on one another. If your daughter previously had chickenpox, she is most likely immune from acquiring infection again. The risk to the unborn child therefore is very, very small. If however, the daughter has not had chickenpox then the exposure risk is higher and the risk to the fetus is higher. In any event, the best course of action is minimize exposure until the shingles have dried.

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Response by:

George S Deepe, Jr, MD George S Deepe, Jr, MD
Professor of Clinical Medicine
Director of Infectious Diseases
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati