Multiple sclerosis (MS) is definitely not contagious. Many experts believe there is a viral link, but this does not mean there’s an MS virus that spreads the disease from one person to another. Rather, it’s thought that a virus in people who have a genetic inclination for the disease may trigger MS. The viruses involved might be common childhood viruses such as measles, which remain dormant in the body long after recovery from the viral illness.
To be clear, the viruses that may trigger MS later in life are contagious but MS itself is not.
A disease of the central nervous system, multiple sclerosis causes deterioration of myelin, the fatty coating that surrounds and insulates nerves. The myelin sheath allows the nerves to smoothly send electrochemical messages between the brain and spinal cord and other parts of the body, allowing functions such as walking, speaking and vision.
The effects of MS depend on the location and extent of damage to the myelin (called demyelinization). Most patients have only mild to moderate symptoms, but a small percentage of cases are severe and progressive. MS tends to strike in the prime of life, often affecting people in their 20s through the early 40s. It also strikes women more than men. There’s no cure, but there are a number of helpful treatments and symptom management strategies.
The cause remains a mystery, but as they uncover information such as viral triggers, scientists appear to be closing in on the complex processes that contribute to the development of this disease.