What Abnormal Results Mean
An abnormal result may mean that you have an active infection with herpes simplex virus. Herpes infections include genital herpes, cold sores on the lips or in the mouth, or shingles. More blood tests will likely be needed to confirm the diagnosis or the exact cause.
If the culture is positive for herpes, you may have recently become infected. You may have become infected in the past and are currently having an outbreak.
You Got A Positive Herpes Test Now What
If you receive a positive herpes test, start by educating yourself about the herpes virus. There are many pervasive herpes myths that you shouldnt believe. The truth is that herpes is treatable and outbreaks can even be minimized or prevented with the right treatment measures.
Acyclovir, for example, is an antiviral medication that treats infections caused by the herpes simplex virus, including genital herpes. Its best to start taking acyclovir as soon as you notice the first signs of an emerging outbreak. This medication stops the herpes virus from growing and spreading during an outbreak, although it cannot remove the virus from your body completely. Most people experience relief within just a few days of taking acyclovir.
If youre looking for a natural therapy to control herpes outbreaks, the Luminance RED is another option. The Luminance RED handheld devices shine red wavelengths of light over the skin of affected areas. The company has one device designed for oral herpes and one for genital herpes.
Medically-optimized red light is metabolized to accelerate the bodys healing process and strengthen its defenses against future attacks. Studies show that regular use of high-powered light treatment not only shortens the healing time of active outbreaks but can also prevent future outbreaks altogether.
How Common Is Infection With Hsv
Infection with either HSV-1 or HSV-2 is remarkably common. In fact, the majority of people in the world are infected with one of the two herpes viruses.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , more than 1 in 6 people living in the United States has genital herpes.
However, U.S. rates of infection with HSV-1 and HSV-2 declined between 1999 and 2016, according to the CDC. In 2016, among people between ages 14 and 49, the prevalence of HSV-2 was 12 percent, compared with 18 percent in 1999. This means that about 1 in 8 people in this age range had HSV-2.
HSV-1 prevalence also declined during those years, from 59 percent in 1999 to 48 percent in 2016.
Taking a global look at the numbers, in 2016, 67 percent of the people in the world who were younger than 50 had an infection caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 , says the World Health Organization . That adds up to more than 3.7 billion people.
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Why The Test Is Performed
The test is done to find out whether a person has ever been infected with oral orgenital herpes. It looks for antibodies to herpes simplex virus 1 and herpes simplex virus 2 . An antibody is a substance made by the bodyâs immune system when it detects harmful substances such as the herpes virus. This test does not detect the virus itself.
What Are The Symptoms And Signs Of Herpes
Oral and genital Herpes infections often have no symptoms or mild symptoms that can either go unnoticed or be mistaken for other types of bacterial or fungal infections, in both men and women. Occasionally, the virus may be present with no visible signs and can still be passed on, by a process called ‘asymptomatic viral shedding’.
Did you know?
1 in 3 people with Herpes will have symptoms, whilst 2 in 3 will only have mild symptoms or none at all.
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Reliability And Choosing A Home Test
People who are considering buying a home test may wish to seek advice from a pharmacist on which test is likely to be best for them. The pharmacist may also be able to show them how to collect the sample at home to prevent inaccuracies.
People who are looking for an at-home herpes test should consider the following before making a purchase:
- Clear information: The company should offer all the information that a person needs for testing, including clear and complete instructions.
- Consultations: Some companies offer consultations for people who wish to discuss their sexual health concerns, particularly if they receive a positive result.
- Treatment plan: Online providers may suggest further testing or treatment depending on the individuals results and concerns.
- Certified laboratories: Some companies work with laboratories with
Anyone who has sexual contact with someone who has received a herpes diagnosis should contact a doctor as soon as possible.
People who have received a positive test result may also wish to consider seeking medical advice.
Currently, herpes is not curable, but doctors can prescribe medications to reduce the frequency and severity of the symptoms. This may help lower the chance of the infection spreading to other individuals.
Below are some common questions about at-home herpes tests.
Prevention Of Hsv Infections
People with HSV infection should avoid activities and other things known to trigger recurrences. For example, people with oral HSV infection triggered by sunlight should avoid exposure to sunlight as much as possible or use sunscreen when sunlight cannot be avoided.
Because HSV infection is contagious, people with infection of the lips should avoid kissing as soon as they feel the first tingling until the sore has completely healed. They should not share a drinking glass and, if possible, should not touch their lips. They should also avoid oral sex.
at all times. Even when there are no visible blisters and no symptoms, the virus may be present on the genitals and can be spread to sex partners.
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Transmissible Even When Dormant
It’s possible to transmit herpes to another person whether you experience an outbreak or not.
Transmission with no symptoms is due to asymptomatic viral shedding. For example, research has found that in people with HSV-1, the virus can be reactivated in the body and allow for transmission to others without any lesions present. HSV-2 also can be transmitted without symptoms present.
What If I Test Positive For Herpes
Since the virus stays in the nerves surrounding the infected area permanently, there is no cure to eliminate the virus from the body. However, there are many treatments which are very effective at reducing both the severity and frequency of any outbreaks.
Creams and medications are available to manage the symptoms and keep outbreaks under control. If you test positive for Herpes, your Better2Know doctor will be able to prescribe the right treatment for you. You are most likely to pass the virus on when you have symptoms, so you should abstain or practice safe sex with a condom during this time.
There are also organisations who can support you such as The STI Project which provides an online forum for people to share their stories.
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How Test Accuracy Is Measure
The accuracy of all medical tests, including herpes tests, is measured based on two values: sensitivity and specificity.
Sensitivityis how often a test correctly identifies someone with a disease. A test that is 90% sensitive will correctly identify 90 people out of 100 who have the disease. Ten people will have a false-negative result.
Specificity, on the other hand, refers to a test’s ability to correctly identify someone who doesn’t have the disease. If a test is 90% specific, that means that 90 people out of 100 will be correctly diagnosed as not having a disease and that 10 people will have a false-positive result.
The higher the sensitivity and specificity, the lower the chances of a false result.
Do Regular Sti Tests Include Herpes
No. If you dont have symptoms, STI testing includes gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV and syphilis, and only involves time with a medical assistant. The Centers for Disease Control does not recommend herpes testing for people without symptoms.
If you think youve been exposed to herpes, but you arent showing symptoms, make sure to tell your health care provider prior to getting tested. At Planned Parenthood, herpes testing requires a visit with the nurse practitioner.
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Useful Methods Include Testing An Actual Lesion
Keep in mind that thereâs no such thing as âsafeâ sex, only safer sex, which means using protection and being open and honest with your partner. âIt can definitely happen,â Friedman says of the chances of transmitting the virus to a partner without a visible outbreak. âIts called asymptotic shedding there are studies showing that the rates of transmission of HSV-2 are the same for symptomatic and asymptomatic.â He adds that this is why using protection during sexual contact is so important, regardless of what blood tests say. Unfortunately, you can never ensure your risk of transmission will be zero, whether or not you know you have herpes, but using a condom or dental dam will get you closer to it.
Like Hutcherson, Friedman also doesnât recommend blood tests for herpes in the absence of symptoms. âThe tests that are useful involve sampling the actual blister or cold sore,â he says, which can involve smearing scrapes of skin cells from the sore onto a slide, targeting the infected cells. As with some of the blood tests, though, this sampling test still wonât tell you what type of herpes virus is present. A viral culture, on the other hand, will tell you which virus you have, though it takes some time to come back. âDirect fluorescent antibody is by far the best,â Friedman says, âas you can get a result in a matter of hours which can be as useful as a culture.â Not all hospitals have access to this method, however.
Accuracy By Test Type
Two blood tests are used to screen for herpes. To ensure that an initial positive result is correct, a second test using a different method of detection is used to confirm the results.
The first test is the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay . An ELISA looks for immune proteins, called antibodies, that are produced by the immune system in response to the HSV. HSV antibodies are present even when there are no symptoms.
If the ELISA result is positive, your healthcare provider may administer a Western blot assay. This second test looks for proteins on the surface of the virus, called antigens, which serve as the virus’ “ID tag.” HSV antibodies produced in response to these antigens help the immune system target its attack.
According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the accuracy of the two blood used to diagnose herpes breaks down as follows:
|Over 99%||Over 99%|
Due to its high level of sensitivity and specificity, the Western blot is considered the gold standard of herpes blood testing.
With that said, the accuracy of the tests can be affected by the timing of the tests. For an ELISA to return an accurate result, the immune system needs to produce enough antibodies to reach detectable levels.
Testing too early during the so-called window period can end up causing a false-negative result .
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Quick Answers For Clinicians
Virologic and serologic testing methods are available to confirm herpes simplex virus infection. Direct detection of the virus by polymerase chain reaction or viral culture is recommended for neonates and patients who have an active infection with lesions, to test for disseminated bloodborne infection in immunocompromised patients, and for cerebrospinal fluid testing. Serologic testing for immunoglobulin G can be used to determine if a person has ever been exposed to HSV but cannot determine exactly when the exposure occurred or the site of infection. Type-specific serologic testing for HSV-1- and HSV-2-specific glycoproteins can determine the subtype of the virus, which provides useful information about prognosis and informs treatment and counseling.
Genital herpes is most often caused by herpes simplex virus type 2 , but HSV-1-associated cases are increasing. Recurrence and subclinical viral shedding occur more frequently in cases caused by HSV-2 than in cases caused by HSV-1, which may impact treatment and counseling decisions. Therefore, subtyping HSV using polymerase chain reaction or serology testing can guide treatment decisions and patient counseling. Subtyping may also provide epidemiologic information about transmission of the virus.
How Is The Test Used
Herpes testing may be used a few different ways:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend screening for herpes in the general population, but it may be helpful in some cases, such as:
- If you have signs and symptoms, such as genital sores that may be related to herpes
- If you have or had a sex partner with genital herpes
- If you would like to have a complete exam for sexually transmitted diseases , especially if you have multiple sex partners if this is the case, you should discuss STD testing with your healthcare practitioner.
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The Different Types Of Herpes
Herpes, or the herpes simplex virus, is a highly contagious and common virus that causes cold sores and genital herpes. You may become infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 or herpes simplex virus type 2 . Each type of virus causes unique symptoms, so its important to understand their differences.
Herpes Testing: Types Accuracy Timing And Necessity
In this section, weâll give you information about herpes testing.
Testing is what ultimately establishes or rule out a diagnosis of herpes. All the other weâve talked aboutâwhat you feel, what you see, and your odds of getting itâhelp us with the diagnosis, but theyâve canât establish it or confirm it.
This section will summarize the different types of herpes tests, their accuracy, how theyâre interpreted, and when theyâre necessary. Tables with important statistics will be followed by FAQ answered by âDr. F,â an STD expert.
So, if you want to know all about herpes testing, this chapter is for you!
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What Does Sti Testing Involve
STI tests may look for things like gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV or syphilis. If you dont have symptoms, STI testing involves providing a urine sample and/or a blood sample. The urine can be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia. The blood sample can be tested for HIV and syphilis.
If you do have symptoms, a clinician will evaluate your symptoms. The clinician may swab the symptomatic areas of your body for testing. They may also ask you to provide a urine sample and/or a blood sample. Although the clinician may be able to say whether or not you have an STI, the test can tell you for sure which STI you have, and will help identify the appropriate treatment.
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Which Herpes Test Should You Get
Each method of testing for herpes has advantages and disadvantages, from time and cost, to an increased possibility of false results. Often, people concerned about the virus use a range of herpes testing to get a more accurate, proven picture of whether or not theyre infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2.
Since herpes is a lifelong infection that cant be cured, its important to discuss testing options with your healthcare provider and make sure you receive an accurate result. Your healthcare provider will be able to tell you more about the best options for herpes testing based on your symptoms and situation.
Typically, your healthcare provider will carry out a physical exam before choosing the best testing method for you. As herpes symptoms tend to be worst during the initial outbreak of the virus, its best to talk to your healthcare provider as soon as you start experiencing symptoms.
In the event that you do have herpes, theres no need to panic. Both oral and genital herpes are extremely common, and a variety of effective treatments are available for both.
Our Valacyclovir 101 guide goes into more detail about one of the most common, effective drugs for treating both symptomatic and asymptomatic herpes. You can also learn more about the risk of catching herpes in our guide to how herpes is transmitted between people.
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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.