Staying Safe While Avoiding Panic And Stigma
It can be tempting to freak out a little bit when you realize that herpes is both super-common and something you arent routinely getting tested for. So how do you process that information?
The first step is practicing the same safe sex that you know helps protect you from other STIs. Your best bet here is a barrier method like internal and external condoms for any penetration and physical shields such as dental dams for any oral play. Even though this wont fully protect you from herpes , it will reduce how much of your skin touches your partners.
This is why screening for herpes infection in the absence of any symptoms wouldnt really do much to cut back on casesthe advice would be the same: Practice safe sex with barrier methods. I agree right now with the recommendations not to screen people, but I think if we had a better diagnostic strategy, I would be much more in favor of routine screenings, Dr. Johnston says. It is important for people to know their status so they can protect themselves and their partners.
If you think you have herpes, see a doctor such as your ob/gyn or dermatologist , or go to your local health clinic. A medical expert can evaluate your symptoms, take samples for testing, and eventually offer treatment options if you need them.
You will likely be started on antiviral medications to help you heal faster and make you less contagious, Dr. Bard says.
Why Have False Positive Tests Been Used As An Argument Against Routine Testing For Genital Herpes But Not For Other Stds Which Can Also Have False Positives
False positive test results are test results that say a person has a disease or condition when they do not actually have it. False positive results can occur with many diagnostic tests, including STD tests. The chances of false positive results increase as the likelihood of the infection decreases in the person being tested. False positive HSV-2 results can happen, especially in people who are at low risk for a herpes infection. Also, we do not know if people who test positive for herpes will change their sexual behavior as a result of a positive test. This tells us that the harm of a possible false positive test may be a greater concern than the benefits of an actual diagnosis. Unlike curable STDs, such as chlamydia, herpes infections are life-long, so it is especially important to avoid a false positive test.
Herpes Myths To Stop Freaking Out About
A surprising number of people you know probably have herpes.
Shocked? You shouldnt be, since the virus is very common. According to the World Health Organization, 3.7 billion people under age 50 have herpes simplex virus type 1 thats 67 percent of the global population in that age bracket. Another 417 million people between ages 15 and 49 worldwide have herpes simplex virus type 2 .
Many people consider HSV-1 more benign, but it turns out theres not much difference between the two types of virus. While its true that HSV-2 is a sexually transmitted disease and can cause genital sores or blisters, type 1 can do the same thing.
One big misconception is that cold sores are caused by HSV-1 and genital herpes are always type 2, but thats not always the case, says Sarah Vensel, a physician assistant in San Francisco. Cold sores are so common theyve been normalized at this point. But genital herpes is sometimes the exact same virus just in a different location.
Not only is herpes incredibly common its also totally manageable. Allow us to set your mind at ease and debunk three widespread herpes myths:
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Study Questions Reliability Of Diagnostic Tests For Herpes
Up to half of those screened for genital herpes may be incorrectly told they are infected
Tests commonly used to diagnose oral and genital herpes are often unreliable, missing some cases of infection and, in others, identifying an infection that does not exist, say researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine.;
In nearly half of patients with commercial test results indicating that they were infected with the most common cause of recurrent genital herpes, herpes simplex virus 2 , a subsequent test showed that the initial diagnosis was incorrect,;the researchers report in a paper;published today in the journal;Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
The high rate of false-positive HSV-2 tests was particularly troubling, said Dr.;Anna Wald, who led the research.
These tests arent as good as they ought to be, given that they are used to diagnose someone with a chronic, lifelong sexually transmitted disease. Wald directs UWs Virology Research Clinic and is a professor of medicine, epidemiology, and laboratory medicine.
The investigators examined results from FDA-approved tests used to diagnose HSV-2 and herpes simplex virus type 1 , the most common cause of cold sores.
These tests, called enzyme-linked immunoassays, detect the presence of antibodies to the herpes simplex viruses in a persons blood. ;When the antibodies are detected, the test is positive, meaning that the person is infected by the virus. No detected antibodies indicates no infection.
How Does A Herpes Blood Test Work
First of all, a disclaimer here. I’m not a doctor nor a scientist. So I’ll give you a brief explanation of how a herpes blood test works.Herpes Blood Tests, especially the HerpesSelect tests, are 97%-100% accurate. This is why you should get a blood test for herpes. They can tell you whether you have HSV-1 or HSV-2.;They detect for antibodies. After you are infected with herpes, your body will develop antibodies for herpes. Antibodies are proteins that are used in suppressing and fighting the disease. They are always developed if you have the herpes virus in your body.
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What You Need To Know About Herpes And How Its Transmitted
Two versions of the herpes simplex virus can cause this infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention : herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simplex virus type 2 .
You might be thinking, Oooh, wait, HSV-1 causes oral herpes, and HSV-2 causes genital herpes, right? Technically, yes. But thats not the full picture. Both viruses can infect either your mouth or your genitals through skin-to-skin contact, the CDC explains.
HSV-1 has a predilection for the oral mucosa, but cases affecting the genitals are rising, Susan Bard, M.D., a New York City board-certified dermatologist and adjunct clinical instructor at the Mount Sinai Hospital, tells SELF. This can happen if, say, a person with HSV-1 in their mouth passes the infection to someones genitals while performing oral sex. And although HSV-2 is still behind most cases of genital herpes, it can cause oral herpes when someone with this infection on their genitals passes it to another persons mouth during oral sex.
You might think these signs would make it really obvious that something is up with your health if you have herpes. But its also entirely possible to have herpes without exhibiting any symptoms at all. The virus can lie dormant in the body without ever making itself known. Thats why so many people have herpes without realizing it, the CDC explains.
Sign & Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
There are many signs and symptoms of genital herpes, all of which display themselves at different times. Herpes symptoms are commonly split into both primary symptoms and recurring symptoms. Ensuring you receive an accurate diagnosis for genital herpes can help to alleviate the symptoms you might be suffering from. Genital herpes is much more common than people, research has shown that:
- 1 in 5 people show no signs or symptoms of the herpes virus
- 3 in 5 people display only mild symptoms which means the infection is never diagnosed
- 1 in 5 people display outwardly obvious symptoms that will lead to a correct diagnosis
The herpes simplex virus us relatively unimportant and doesnt cause any permanent damage to health or fertility; although it is advised to get diagnosed and treated to help prevent the virus from spreading. Once infected with genital herpes its likely that you will be subject to further outbreaks throughout your life, as there is no permanent cure for HSV1 or HSV2. Herpes spreads so easily as it is passed through skin to skin contact.
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How To Get A Blood Test For Herpes
1. Visit your doctor informed. Reading this website and the others linked to on this page will have you go informed. Many doctors are woefully uninformed on herpes. Do your research before going and getting tested. Remember to wait 10-12 weeks after suspected infection or first outbreak. Before that you will have to wait until you have an outbreak and get a viral culture.2. Ask for the HerpesSelect Test. This is the most accurate blood test for herpes and the newest. It is 98%-100% accurate AND will tell you what type of herpes you have. 3. Consider holding off from sexual activity until you get your results. At the minimum, tell your partner what you are doing. And SUGGEST THEY GET TESTED. Offer to pay for their test. Most of us got herpes from a partner who either denied they had herpes or who didn’t know they had it.
4. Consider using a confidential laboratory to get the test. This is another option. Using a service like STDcheck.com is awesome because it is fast, convenient, confidential, and affordable. Many of my readers have used this service. They do the type-specific herpes blood test and they do it fast: you’ll get the result in 1-2 days.
Herpes False Positives: The Accuracy Of Herpes Tests
Worried you have been handed a herpes false positive?;Is there a small chance of being handed a false positive herpes test result or are these supposedly fail-safe tests always accurate? If recent test results confirm you are carrying the herpes simplex virus, you may need to be reassured that the current herpes blood tests are reliable.
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Myth #: Your Sex Life Is Over
While theres no cure, herpes treatment is simple and can shorten or prevent outbreaks, so you can still have a love life.
People have a disproportionate fear of herpes in relation to any other STI, Grimes says. They feel like their sex lives are ruined forever and thats in no way the case.
If you have the virus, your doctor may prescribe a medication like Zovirax or Valtrex to keep on hand in case of a flare-up. And if you experience outbreaks often, your provider may recommend daily dosing. However you treat it, its worth remembering that herpes is a condition to manage; it doesnt define you.
If you have to be perfect for your new partner, that partner will be looking a very, very long time to find a match! Grimes says. Everyone has something, and since one in six Americans between 14-49 have HSV-2, odds are very high that your next partner is in the same boat. The main issue is to have productive conversations around these issues.
So theres no reason for all the stigma and secrecy surrounding herpes, since its safe to assume more people have it than you think. And if youre diagnosed with the virus, your provider will help you find a treatment plan thats easy, effective, and fit for your lifestyle.
How Soon Can You Be Tested
The incubation period for herpes is 2 to 12 days, which means that the best time to get tested for the herpes virus if you havent had an initial outbreak is after 12 days. If youre worried that youve been exposed to herpes but have not yet been diagnosed, here are some steps you can take:
- If youre currently sexually active, stop all sexual activity until you can receive a formal diagnosis.
- Reach out to your doctor and schedule an appointment for once the incubation period is up.
- If youre having an outbreak, you dont have to wait to get tested. Its possible to receive a diagnosis based on the lesions.
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Can You Test Negative For Herpes And Still Have It
As mentioned above, it is possible to test negative for herpes and still have the infection. False negatives can be the result of:
- A blood test for herpes antibodies is performed during the window period
- If a urine sample or swab is taken when the sores have begun healing.
- A viral culture test not being able to identify asymptomatic herpes.
To avoid the risks of a false negative, if youre sexually active, you should practice safe sex and get regularly tested for herpes. LetsGetChecked;offers a subscription for herpes tests every three months, with a total saving of 30%.
Flawed Herpes Testing Leads To False Positives And Needless Suffering
;Blood tests can be highly unreliable
Herpes is a lifelong infection, but Lauren had it only for six tumultuous months. Or rather, she believed she did, after a request for sexually transmitted disease;testing returned a positive result. But after weeks of Googling, chatting with members of online herpes forums, and reading scientific papers, she asked for a different test, which eventually confirmed her suspicion ;her herpes diagnosis was wrong.
In the six months that passed between the tests, the mistake;led her to keep a romance at bay and left her anxiously patrolling her health.Every tingle I would get in my leg or any kind of itch down there would just set me off, sending her into a new flurry of research, she said. And that was just to try to calm my own anxiety, but it would only really make it worse.
Genital herpes, predominantly caused by herpes simplex virus type 2, is a sexually transmitted disease thats very common 1;in 6 people aged 14 to 49 in the United States have HSV-2, and this number goes up with age. Most of these people, however, dont have obvious symptoms and wouldnt know they were carriers without blood tests.
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How Do You Get Checked For Herpes
There are three ways that you can get checked for herpes:
Blood Test for HSV Antibodies
Blood testing for HSV 1 & 2 antibodies is the most common method of testing for herpes infection. This is because it can detect if youre infected with herpes, even if youre asymptomatic.
A viral culture can be performed with a urine sample or a swab of the suspected infected area. The sample will be used to see if the virus grows in a lab culture. It is a good choice to confirm you have the virus if youre experiencing symptoms, but it is only effective if the virus is active in a sore or lesion.
PCR Herpes Testing
PCR testing looks for HSV DNA from a blood sample or from a lip or genital sore. It can determine the difference between HSV-1 and HSV-2. PCR testing is expensive, but it is fast and efficient.
Do I Need A Test For Genital Herpes
If you suspect that youve been infected with the herpes simplex virus and have symptoms, getting tested is the only way to confirm whether you have herpes. The virus can cause an outbreak weeks, months or years after it first entered your body. If you are currently experiencing your first outbreak, your current partner does not necessarily have to be the cause of your infection.
You may want to get tested if your partner has genital herpes, if youve had unprotected sex with a new partner, or if you have another STI because STIs are often transmitted together. Also, pregnant women who think they could have the virus should also get tested.
Swab tests and urine tests can only diagnose herpes if there are open sores or blisters. If you think you might have been exposed to herpes in the past but dont have any symptoms, these tests wont tell you if you have herpes. There are blood tests available that can check if you have been exposed to herpes before.
Because the herpes virus is so common, most people wouldnt need to have this blood test if youve never had symptoms its likely that you wont ever develop symptoms, and theres no treatment or way to predict if you will have an outbreak anyway. It might be helpful for people who have a partner who is known to have herpes, because they can find out if they already have the virus too.
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Is Alzheimers Disease Related To Hsv
Alzheimers disease is a progressive brain disease that develops as a result of a complex series of events occurring in the brain over a long period of time. The causes of Alzheimers disease may include genetic, environmental, and other factors. Several different factors have been statistically linked to Alzheimers disease, including HSV-1 infection. However, some investigations suggest that viruses other than HSV-1 may influence Alzheimers disease. More research is needed to determine whether or not there is a causal link between HSV-1 infection and Alzheimers disease.
Diagnostic Tests For Feline Herpes Virus
Depending on the particular case, the diagnosis of feline herpes virus is based on several laboratory tests:
- Immunofluorescent assays
- Swab samples
Secretions from the conjunctiva or nose are combined with fluorescent-labeled proteins in order to discover the presence of feline herpes antibodies. his process is named immunofluorescent assay and relies on detecting certain proteins synthesized by the immune system that fight the cat herpes virus.
Swab samples are collected from the pharynx, an area that gets infected in cats with herpes virus. The secretions are collected with cotton or gauze and analyzed under microscope afterwards.
Since the nucleus of viral-infected conjunctiva cells present certain structures, smears are also an effective way of diagnosing feline herpes virus.
Feline herpes virus features several symptoms that also pertain to other medical conditions. This is why the vet needs to know how to perform a differential diagnosis. Feline herpes virus can be mistaken for feline calicivirus infection, but the cats that suffer from the latter disease do not sneeze as often and have a less serious conjunctivitis.
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