Mpox (formerly known as monkeypox) and shingles are both viral infections. They can both cause similar symptoms, and a person can have both infections at the same time.

Mpox is a viral infection that causes disease in humans that is similar to smallpox. Mpox causes a person to develop a rash that may become painful and itchy. It is a zoonotic virus, meaning it can transfer to humans from animals.

Shingles is a common viral infection that a person can develop if the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) reactivates. This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. If a person has shingles, they develop a painful rash on one side of the face or body.

In this article, we will explain the links between mpox and shingles. It will also discuss the causes and risk factors of both conditions and outline possible treatments.

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Mpox and shingles both occur due to different viruses. This means they do not cause one another.

Mpox can develop if a person acquires the mpox virus, which is a type of orthopoxvirus. Shingles can develop following the reactivation of the VZV. After recovering from chickenpox, this virus stays dormant in the body and can reactivate later, causing shingles.

The two conditions can both cause similar symptoms.

Mpox causes a person to develop a rash on their body that may be painful and itchy. A mpox rash will often scab over before going away.

Shingles also causes a rash that appears on the body. This rash may also be painful and itchy. A shingles rash will often cause blisters to appear that will then scab over before the rash goes away.

Both mpox and shingles can also cause the following additional symptoms:

  • headaches
  • fever
  • chills

It is also possible for a person to have a coinfection of mpox and shingles. This means they can have a mpox infection and a shingles infection at the same time.

An infection with the mpox virus causes mpox. Mpox can spread to a person from another person or an animal. A person can catch mpox from a person who has the virus if they have direct contact with the person’s:

  • mpox rash
  • saliva
  • snot and mucus
  • anus or rectum
  • vagina

A person can also catch mpox from an infected animal. The most common route of infection from infected animals is through direct contact with:

  • the infected rash
  • scabs
  • crusts or fluids from sores
  • saliva
  • infected bodily fluids

After a person recovers from chickenpox, VZV can lie dormant in their body for a period of time. The virus can then reactivate in the future, causing shingles.

This typically occurs when the immune system weakens, often due to older age, infection, or medications that weaken or suppress the immune system.

Currently, there is no specific treatment for mpox. However, in certain cases, a doctor may try an antiviral known as tecovirimat. This drug treats smallpox, and since the viruses are similar, it may provide some benefit.

If a person has mpox they may wish to follow these steps to manage their condition:

  • get plenty of rest
  • eat a balanced diet
  • cover the rash with gauze or bandages to prevent spreading it to other people
  • avoid lancing or scratching lesions from the rash
  • avoid shaving the area where the rash is present until the scabs have fallen off and a new layer of skin has formed
  • keep the rash clean and dry when not showering or bathing
  • wash hands after touching the rash
  • wear a well-fitting mask around other people until the symptoms of mpox have resolved

If a mpox rash is painful or itchy, a person can treat this with:

A person can also receive the mpox vaccine to reduce their risk of contracting the disease. The vaccine is a two-dose vaccine to protect against mpox and smallpox infections. People need both doses of the vaccine for best protection against mpox.

Other steps a person can take to reduce their risk of mpox include:

  • avoiding close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like mpox
  • avoiding contact with any objects and materials that a person with mpox has used
  • washing hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer

A person can use antiviral medications to treat shingles. These medications do not cure shingles but can shorten the length and severity of the condition.

A person may also use over-the-counter pain medications to relieve pain. The following home remedies can help treat the itchiness and discomfort that shingles may cause:

  • wet compresses
  • calamine lotion
  • colloidal oatmeal baths

A person can also receive the shingles vaccine. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) states that the vaccine is over 90% effective. If a person has shingles, they should take the following steps to reduce their risk of spreading it to other people:

  • stay away from people who have not had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine
  • stay away from people with a weakened immune system
  • cover their shingles rash
  • avoid touching or scratching their shingles rash
  • wash their hands often

A person should contact their doctor immediately if they develop a rash that they believe to be shingles or mpox. This is so a doctor can make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan.

The NIA states that it is important a person sees their doctor no later than 3 days after their shingles rash starts. Early treatment with antiviral medications can help their rash clear up faster and limit pain.

Mpox and shingles are two viral infections that may display similar symptoms. Both conditions can cause a person to develop a rash that can become painful and itchy.

Mpox and shingles can also both cause a person to experience headaches, fever, and chills. It is possible for a person to have both mpox and shingles at the same time.