When Should You Get Tested
The best time to get tested for herpes varies, depending on what’s happening.
If you’re exhibiting symptoms of an initial outbreak which include pain, itching and redness of the affected location fatigue, fever and chills and, ultimately, painful sores or ulcers it’s best to see a healthcare professional about getting tested.
However, if you think you’ve been exposed to the virus and aren’t yet exhibiting symptoms, HSV may take some time before being able to show results on a test. While the exact time frame is unknown and varies from person to person, two weeks is usually enough time to yield accurate test results.
Most people become concerned about being infected with the herpes virus after contact with a potentially infected person. Often, simple things like kissing someone with a visible cold sore or facial acne around the lips can cause concern about HSV-1.
For genital herpes, most people become concerned about potentially being infected after sexual contact with a person that shows symptoms of herpes. This can include oral sex with someone that has cold sores, which can potentially spread to the genitals.
Since herpes is asymptomatic in many people, you could be infected with the virus even if you dont have any symptoms.
Herpes Average Incubation Period
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 cause painful sores and blisters that present in five stages:
- Stage 1:About 1-2 days before the cold sore or blister appears, tingling, itching, burning, or numbing sensation starts where the outbreak will occur.
- Stage 2:One or more painful sores appear, typically around the mouth or the genitals.
- Stage 3:Several days later, the sores burst, which allows the fluid inside to escape. This fluid can easily transmit the virus to othersthis is a highly contagious time.
- Stage 4: A crust forms, covering the sores as they dry out.
- Stage 5:A scab forms over the crust, and eventually flakes off once the sore is fully healed.
From start to finish, a herpes simplex sore outbreak typically lasts 1-2 weeks.
How Is Genital Herpes Spread
- Saliva from a partner with an oral herpes infection
- Genital fluids from a partner with a genital herpes infection
- Skin in the oral area of a partner with oral herpes or
- Skin in the genital area of a partner with genital herpes.
You also can get genital herpes from a sex partner who does not have a visible sore or is unaware of their infection. It is also possible to get genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a partner with oral herpes.
You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools. You also will not get it from touching objects, such as silverware, soap, or towels.
If you have more questions about herpes, consider discussing your concerns with a healthcare provider.
Type Of Tests Used To Diagnose Herpes
There are four main types of diagnostic tests that can be used to diagnose herpes. Your doctor will determine which type of test to use based on whether an outbreak is present or not.
If youre experiencing what you believe to be a herpes outbreak, your doctor can use a viral culture test or virus antigen detection test. If youre not experiencing symptoms, you can have an antibody test.
- Viral culture test.This test is used to determine if a sore contains the herpes virus. This test can sometimes produce a false-negative, meaning that it may not detect the virus even though its present.
- Virus antigen detection test. This test is used to determine if antigens to the herpes virus are present in a sore or lesion.
- Antibody test. If youre not experiencing an outbreak yet but still believe you may have been exposed, you can opt to have an antibody test performed. This test will only show a positive result if the antibodies to the virus have been developed. Therefore, this test isnt necessarily recommended for recent exposure.
- Polymerase chain reaction test. With this test, a healthcare provider can screen a sample of your blood or tissue from a sore. They can use this to determine if HSV is present and which type you have.
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.
Recommended Reading: What Are The First Signs Of Genital Herpes
Do Gynecologists Test For Herpes
Your gynecologist will test for HIV, syphilis, and genital herpes by drawing blood and examining it for particular antibodies. Your doctor may also take a swab of gential sores to test for syphilis or herpes, but the results for herpes are not always conclusive with false-positive and false-negative results possible.
Can Herpes Simplex Virus Cause Serious Infections
Yes. The most serious, or life-threatening, HSV infections can occur in newborns who are infected during birth and in individuals with weakened immune systems , such as organ transplant recipients and people with HIV/AIDS. Neonatal herpes is a serious condition, but also very rare. While 25-30% of pregnant women have genital herpes, less than 0.1% of babies born in the U.S. each year get neonatal herpes. This means that most women with genital herpes give birth to healthy babies.
HSV lesions tend to be more extensive and persist longer in newborns and immunocompromised people than in individuals who have healthy immune systems.
Recommended Reading: How To Know Of You Have Herpes
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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One common question we get asked is Can Dormant Herpes Be Detected? The answer is YES IT CAN, as long as you get the right test!
Genital herpes is a virus that comes in two types, but both types act the same. As many as 4-5 times a year, the virus attacks your skin and causes an outbreak of sores, blisters or small pimples.
These take 2-4 weeks to fully heal. If someone else touches the sores, they can also become infected with Herpes. Even though you can see something is wrong with your body, these sores are often mistaken for other skin conditions like insect bites or a rash.
Eventually your body beats back the attack, but then the Herpes virus pulls a trick. It retreats back to the base of your spine, where it slowly builds up strength again, but also causes no trouble. This is called the Dormant phase.
During the Dormant phase, you have absolutely no symptoms, so it may seem tough to test whether you are infected. But here at Private Testing Center, we have a super accurate test that does just that.
You see, even though theres no outward sign that you have Herpes, your body still knows its infected. It constantly battles it with special ANTIBODIES. These are tiny assassins that ONLY kill the Herpes virus.
Also Check: How To Avoid Herpes Outbreaks
Genital And Oral Herpes Testing
- Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2
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- Herpes Simplex Virus Culture
- Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1- and Type 2-Specific Antibodies
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Testing With No Symptoms
Blood tests can be used when a person has no visible symptoms but has concerns about having herpes. Blood tests do not actually detect the virus instead, they look for antibodies in the blood.
IgM vs. IgG
When an individual contracts herpes, the immune system responds by developing antibodies to fight the virus: IgG and IgM. Blood tests can look for and detect these antibodiesnot the virus itself. IgG appears soon after infection and stays in the blood for life. IgM is actually the first antibody that appears after infection, but it may disappear thereafter.
IgM tests are not recommended because of three serious problems:
The accurate herpes blood tests detect IgG antibodies. Unlike IgM, IgG antibodies can be accurately broken down to either HSV-1 or HSV-2. The challenge here is that the time it takes for IgG antibodies to reach detectable levels can vary from person to person. For one person, it could take just a few weeks, while it could take a few months for another. So even with the accurate tests, a person could receive a false negative if the test is taken too soon after contracting the virus.
For the most accurate test result, it is recommended to wait 12 16 weeks from the last possible date of exposure before getting an accurate, type-specific blood test in order to allow enough time for antibodies to reach detectable levels.
Read Also: How Would I Know If I Have Herpes
Can I Still Have Sex If I Have Herpes
If you have herpes, you should talk to your sex partner about their risk. Using condoms may help lower this risk but it will not get rid of the risk completely. Having sores or other symptoms of herpes can increase your risk of spreading the disease. Even if you do not have any symptoms, you can still infect your sex partners.
You may have concerns about how genital herpes will impact your health, sex life, and relationships. While herpes is not curable, it is important to know that it is manageable with medicine. Daily suppressive therapy can lower your risk of spreading the virus to others. Talk to a healthcare provider about your concerns and treatment options.
A genital herpes diagnosis may affect how you will feel about current or future sexual relationships. Knowing how to talk to sexual partners about STDs is important.
How To Prevent The Spread Of Herpes
Although herpes is a lifelong virus that cant be cured, it goes through periods of dormancy between outbreaks. This means that while the virus is still present, its not actively replicating.
During this time, you may not experience any signs or symptoms of having the disease even if youve had a previous outbreak before.
However, you can still spread the herpes virus to your sexual partners at any time, even if no sores are present. In addition, although rare, its possible to spread oral herpes to the genital region and vice versa.
For this reason, its extremely important to be mindful of the following preventive measures:
- Tell your partners that you have genital or oral herpes. This allows them to make informed decisions about their own sexual health, and its the responsible thing to do.
- If youre experiencing the signs and symptoms of an upcoming outbreak, avoid all sexual contact. Youre most likely to spread the virus to others during an outbreak.
- Its possible to spread the herpes virus even without an outbreak. If youre worried about spreading the disease to a partner, research shows that antivirals are effective at reducing this possibility.
Having oral or genital herpes doesnt mean that you can no longer have sex. However, its your responsibility to prevent the spread of herpes to your sexual partner.
If you have herpes, you can still take care of your sexual health through open communication and safer sex.
Also Check: Is It Possible To Not Spread Herpes
When Are Herpes Tests Accurate
In the table below, we summarize information about the timing of herpes testing.
One of the most important factors in any infectious disease testing is doing it at the right time. This means two things in the case of herpes:
- For the blood test to be accurate, the right amount of time needs to have passed
- The swab test should be done while symptoms are âfreshâ
For each available herpes test, we will mention:
- The earliest testing time
- The ideal testing time
|Test type||Ideal time|
|Swab||The swab test may be performed as soon as the first blisters appear .Technique: A doctor scrapes the fresh lesion, collecting skin and fluid. To get accurate test results, this should be done within 48 hours of the appearance of the lesion .Note that technique and timing are important. This test is not commonly done for that reason,|
|Blood test for IgG||
||12 weeks after the initial exposure, over 92% of infected people are positive|
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What Is An Std Incubation Period
When to get tested for an STD is an important question. To determine when you should get tested, its important to understand how the body responds to STDs.
If you are exposed to an STD, your body will need time to recognize it in your system. Once the STD has been detected, your body will begin to produce antibodies to fight it. The time that it takes your body to identify the STD and produce these antibodies is known as the incubation period.
Most STD tests determine whether or not you have an STD by looking for the presence of specific types of antibodies in a sample of your blood, urine, or saliva. If these antibodies are present, you will test positive, but if they are not present in your sample, you will test negative.
Because STD tests look for the presence of antibodies, testing too early could lead to false negative results. If you take a test during the incubation period, your body may not have had enough time to produce antibodies yet, which means you could test negative even if you really are infected. Thats why it is so important to wait until the incubation period is over to get tested for STDs.
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What Happens If I Dont Receive Treatment
Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems.
If you touch your sores or fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another body part like your eyes. Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of your body. If you do touch the sores or fluids, quickly wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading the infection.
If you are pregnant, there can be problems for you and your unborn fetus, or newborn baby. See Im pregnant. How could genital herpes affect my baby? for information about this.
When Is It Ordered
HSV PCR testing or herpes culture may be ordered when you have signs and symptoms of a herpes infection, such as a blister or blisters on or around your eye, mouth, genitals or rectum.
Herpes PCR testing may be ordered when you have signs and symptoms of encephalitis that a healthcare practitioner suspects may be caused by a virus. Examples of these signs and symptoms include:
Prenatal and newborn testing
- A pregnant woman who has been diagnosed with herpes may be monitored regularly prior to delivery to detect a reactivation of her infection.
- A baby born to a mother who has active lesions during delivery may be tested before symptoms appear to assess whether the baby was exposed to HSV during delivery.
- A mother and newborn may be tested for HSV soon after delivery when a baby shows signs of HSV infection, such as meningitis or skin lesions that could be caused by the herpes virus.
HSV antibody testing may be done when your healthcare practitioner wants to determine if you have been exposed to HSV in the past.
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Can You See A 1 Week Pregnancy On Ultrasound
You typically have a one-week window between your pregnancy test and before your pregnancy is visible on a scan. Although, remember that this is the very early stages of pregnancy, and your baby is still teeny-tiny on the scan. The soonest an ultrasound can detect a pregnancy is 17 days after ovulation.