How are Herpes and Shingles Related?

Dear Dr. Tom:

I had the shingles about 15 years ago (was about 30), I was told it was a form of herpes simplex. The doctor stated that I had come in contact with someone with the measles and since I already had the measles as a child I developed the shingles. Just last year I developed a rash around my genital area that was diagnosed as herpes simplex. I stated that I had never had herpes in that area and ask him if it were possible to have gotten it from my husband (we had only been married for 1 1/2 years). I explained that he had a rash with small blisters in the hip area, and I have noticed that at times the area around his genitals are red and very irritated. The doctor would not consider him a possible source. Now, I have noticed another rash in the bend of the thigh and genital area. Would you explain to me about shingles and could that outbreak 15 years ago have affected me at this time. I was under more stress at the time of the shingles breakout than I am now.

Dr. Tom’s Response:

Dear Concerned:

Shingles is the name for a series of herpetic vesicles on the body that tend to follow along a peripheral nerve. The causative agent is named varicella-zoster (V-Z) virus. V-Z is spread from person to person, by aerosols and through fluid from blisters. Varicella virus causes chicken-pox in children; zoster virus tends to cause shingles in adults. Shingles is considered to be a recurrence of the virus that causes chicken-pox in children. In essence the viral agents are the same and are collectively referred to as varicella-zoster virus. The V-Z virus is a part of the herpesvirus group, but is not herpes simplex as is sometimes stated, and as you were told. Another name for this infectious agent is human (alpha) herpesvirus 3. The measles virus is a member of a different family and genus from the V-Z virus and herpes simplex virus. V-Z infections are not classified as sexually transmitted. I am puzzled that your doctor would not consider your husband a possible source of herpes simplex infection, based upon the descriptive information you have related in your Web question. However, his red and irritated genital area could have been a result of a fungal infection called tinea cruris, jockstrap itch, or one of several other possibilities. From what you have given, I suspect that the two events in your life were different and unrelated. You experienced shingles as an adult at age 30, and at another time you contracted herpes simplex infection – different agents; different infections; different times.


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