Ask The Expert
May 01, 2012
No, your daughter is not at risk since there is no direct contact with the wife.
Shingles is also called "zoster." It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Usually, this virus enters our bodies in childhood when it often causes chickenpox. After the chickenpox ends, the virus stays inside our bodies for the rest of our lives. The immune system cannot kill it, so it just tries to keep it quiet.
The virus lives inside nerves that lead to our skin. In most of us, it remains "asleep" inside the nerves and causes no problems. But sometimes it "wakes up" and begins making copies of itself. That's when trouble can start.
When the virus wakes up, it can cause pain or just a strange unpleasant sensation in a patch of skin. A few days later, that patch of skin starts to develop a rash: the skin turns red and tiny little blisters form. That's the condition called shingles or zoster. The rash usually lasts no longer than a few days. But sometimes the pain and discomfort can persist.
Even if your daughter was in the same room as the wife (the one with shingles), her risk of picking up the virus from the wifes skin and becoming infected is extremely small. Plus, if your daughter had chicken pox in childhood, she has natural immunity against getting a new case of chicken pox. And if she received the chicken pox vaccine, she is also very likely protected.