Genital Herpes Cdc Fact Sheet
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease that any sexually active person can get. Most people with the virus dont have symptoms. Even without signs of the disease, herpes can still be spread to sex partners.
Basic Fact Sheet | Detailed Version
Basic fact sheets are presented in plain language for individuals with general questions about sexually transmitted diseases. The content here can be syndicated .
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How To Test For Herpes: Self
Understanding the signs and symptoms is the most obvious way to determine if you may be having a herpes outbreak.
However, other sexually transmitted infections may also cause sores in the genital area.
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Genital Herpes Is Spread By Skin
The virus can be spread when someone with HSV has an episode or an outbreak characterised by having a sore, blister, ulcer or skin split . It can also be spread between episodes, when there is no sore, blister, ulcer or skin split present called asymptomatic viral shedding.
During viral shedding the virus is on the skin surface and can be spread through genital skin-to-skin contact, or from the mouth or face to genital skin during contact.
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When Should I Get A Genital Or Oral Herpes Test
Testing for the viruses that cause genital and oral herpes may be ordered when a patient develops signs and symptoms of a herpes infection. Although many people who contract HSV never notice symptoms, signs of an initial infection appear 2 to 20 days after infection and depend on the type of HSV causing the infection.
When signs and symptoms of an initial infection occur, they may include:
- Small sores on the skin
- Tingling, itching, or burning on the skin
- Fever, headache, or body aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
After the initial infection, HSV remains dormant inside of the body. HSV can reactivate throughout a patients life, causing symptoms of genital or oral herpes to reappear. While the trigger for an HSV outbreak is often unknown, potential triggers include a fever, stress, physical trauma, and a suppressed immune system.
Generally, expert organizations do not recommend herpes testing for patients without symptoms. An exception may be made for certain patients, including:
- Patients who have a partner with genital herpes
- Patients seeking a more complete STD test panel, including people with multiple sexual partners
- Babies born to a mother who has HSV
Causes Of A Positive Hsv Test
The virus is generally transmitted through oral secretions or sores on the skin and so it is spread through physical contact like kissing or sharing objects such as toothbrush or utensils. A person can test positive for herpes infection when he/she has been in sexual contact with someone who has genital herpes infection.
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Taking A Genital Or Oral Herpes Test
Testing for genital and oral herpes may be performed with a blood sample or a sample of fluid swabbed or scraped from a sore. Both types of samples are collected by a health professional when conducted at a doctors offices, clinic, or community organization.
If a patient is experiencing an outbreak, a doctor can collect a sample for testing by swabbing or scraping a sore. Material from the sore can be used for a herpes viral culture, PCR testing,
A Tzanck smear or an antibody test.
If a patient is not currently experiencing an outbreak, a blood test may be used to identify HSV antibodies. If a doctor suspects a brain infection with HSV, a lumbar puncture may be performed to obtain a sample of cerebrospinal fluid for analysis.
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.
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Testing For Genital Herpes
If you think you may have genital herpes you should make an appointment with your GP or local sexual health services.
If there are symptoms present such as blisters, sores and ulcers, your doctor or nurse may be able to make a diagnosis straight away.
If you have visible blisters, your doctor or nurse may take a swab for testing, to check if this is herpes and what type. This swab can also test for another STI which causes blisters called syphilis.
The genital herpes swab tests are very reliable, though if the ulcer is too dry then it may be less likely to find a positive result.
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Questions For Your Doctor About Test Results
The following questions may be useful as patients review genital and oral herpes test results with their doctor:
- What type of test was conducted?
- What is my test result?
- What is the most likely explanation for my test result?
- Are there any follow-up tests that you recommend?
- How should I discuss my test result with sexual partners?
What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes
Most people with herpes will not have any signs or symptoms that they have been infected. However, there are certain signs and symptoms that may indicate that a person has been infected with herpes. Possible symptoms for women:
- Burning or pain when you urinate
- Pain in your lower belly
Possible symptoms for men:
- Burning or pain when you urinate
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Will I Have To Pay For The Test Out Of Pocket
Youll have to check with your insurance network to see whether at-home STI tests are covered.
Insurance does typically cover them, but sites like Everlywell recommend verifying the purchase with your insurance.
Additionally, some networks may reimburse you for your purchase.
However, most at-home testing sites arent currently partnered with any insurance companies, which means youll have to reach out yourself.
If you dont have insurance, youll likely have to pay for the test out of pocket. Some sites like Priority STD dont accept insurance, so its a flat rate of $99 regardless of your coverage.
Facts And Statistics About Herpes
- According to the World Health Organization, an estimated two-thirds of the global population under 50 years old are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 .
- Estimates for HSV-1 prevalence in the U.S. among people aged 049 years are 178 million women and 142 million men .
- In total, about 75 percent or more of the American adult population has the HSV-1 virus that usually causes oral herpes , and about 20 percent to 30 percent have HSV-2 that usually causes genital herpes.
- Men and women are affected by HSV-1 about equally. Roughly 6 million women in the U.S. become infected with HSV-1 each year, along with 5 million men.
- Slightly more women than men are affected by genital herpes, whether from HSV-1 or HSV-2. Middle-aged women are most likely to acquire genital herpes.
- Transmission of HSV most often occurs without symptoms, so its estimated that 85 percent of people with genital herpes dont know it. Many dont have any symptoms at all after the initial infection, and only about 15 percent ever receive a HSV-2 infection diagnosis in their lifetimes.
- Most primary oral/facial HSV infections are caused by HSV-1 however, facial infection by HSV-2 is increasingly becoming common.
- Less children are becoming infected with HSV-1 than in the past in high-income countries, mostly due to better hygiene and living conditions.
- After someone comes into contact with an active herpes outbreak on another person, the incubation period takes about one week.
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What Other Tests Are Ordered Along With Herpes Simplex Virus Test
Along with testing for antibodies against herpes infection, culture test is also ordered when a person has blisters on the genitals. HSV DNA testing is ordered when the patient may show signs and symptoms of encephalitis. Tests for screening for other STDs, especially HIV testing, is recommended as HSV infection can increase the risk of being infected with other sexually transmitted diseases .
HSV test requires no special preparation. The results are generally obtained within a day or two. Cultures generally take longer and reports are available within two or more days. The test is often ordered when a person is being screened for a previous exposure, has a history of STD, or is at a risk of infection.
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Can I Get An Sti Without Intercourse If We Are Just Fooling Around
Yes, you can get some STI just by intimate skin-to-skin touching or kissing of an infected area.
It doesnt matter whether youre heterosexual, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit or questioning. STI can be transmitted by anyone.
Drugs and/or alcohol can impair judgement and lead to risky behaviour. When you or your partner are impaired and caught up in the moment, you may be more likely to have sex without a condom and take other risks that can increase your exposure to STI and unplanned pregnancy.
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Most STI have no obvious symptoms , so you may not know if you or your sexual partner has an infection. Thats why practising safer sex and getting tested regularly is so important.
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Herpes Testing : What Are Your Options
Medically reviewed by Michele Emery, DNP
Are you worried you might have been exposed to the herpes virus?
First: don’t panic. The HSV viruses are a lot more common than you may think, and are very manageable in most cases.
Second: if you think youve been exposed to the herpes virus, testing is going to be your first plan of action.
Take a couple deep breaths and when you’re ready, read on.
Best For Quick Results: Stdcheck
STDcheck offers tests for both HSV-1 and HSV-2. A person can order an HSV-2 test for $45, or they can order a test for both HSV-1 and HSV-2 for $79. There is also an option to order a test package that tests for 10 different STIs.
This option is best for people who need their results quickly.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Hsv
HSV-1 commonly causes painful cold sores around or in the mouth.
Less commonly, they may appear elsewhere on the face, such as the chin, cheeks, or eyes.
HSV-1 can also be transmitted via sexual contact, and may be the cause of genital sores.
Additionally, other signs of an HSV-1 infection include:
- Tingling, itching, or numbness 1-3 days before sores appear
You can also have HSV-2 and be able to pass the infection even without active blisters.
Is It A New Or Recurrent Infection
The common wisdom suggests that a herpes IgM blood test means that someone has been recently infected with herpes. However, this is not the whole story. Herpes IgM levels tend to go up early in an infection, and levels often go down with time.
This means a positive herpes IgM result is most often associated with a new infection. However, that is not the only time when IgM may be detected.
Individuals who were recently infected with herpes do tend to have positive HSV IgM tests. So do many people with recurrent herpes infections. Between 30% and 70% of people with recurrent herpes are positive on HSV IgM tests, depending on the test and the study.
In other words, an IgM test, without any other data, does not prove that infection a herpes infection is recent. Thats particularly true if it is accompanied by a positive herpes IgG test.
People will not become positive on an HSV IgG test until theyve been infected for at least several months. However, IgG levels are expected to remain high throughout the course of an infection, while IgM levels are more variable.
Therefore, if someone has positive results on both IgG and IgM tests, they may be having a recurrence. It is almost certainly not a new infection. A positive IgM test alone is more likely to be a new infection.
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Are Test Results Accurate
Tests that identify evidence of HSV infections are routine and commonly used medical tests. The ability of a test to accurately diagnose or rule out HSV infection depends on the test used for analysis and the stage of a patients infection.
The Tzanck smear and viral culture are less able to accurately identify patients who have an HSV infection than other tests. PCR testing and antibody testing are more sensitive, which means that they miss fewer cases of infection.
Blood tests that detect antibodies to HSV can distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2 but not the site of infection. This means that blood tests cannot tell whether a patient has a genital or oral herpes infection.
Although these tests are valuable for identifying HSV infection, no test is perfect. When learning of test results, patients should talk to their doctor about the type of test conducted, the reliability of test results, and if additional tests are necessary to confirm or rule out a diagnosis.
How To Choose The Right Herpes Test For You
Every herpes test has its own benefits and drawbacks. Its best to discuss your options with a medical professional to make the right choice for your healthcare needs.
It may be helpful to choose your herpes test based on your symptoms. Early in the disease, before a clear herpes outbreak appears, some test methodologies like a PCR test and an antibody blood test can yield false-negative results. On the other hand, a viral culture may yield false-negative results later in the disease.
If you want to receive test results that provide a comprehensive evaluation of your infection, consider using multiple herpes testing methods. If getting a rapid result is your priority, a PCR test is the fastest option.
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When To Test For Herpes
The Centers for Disease Control recommends STD testing for active genital herpes symptoms because they can visually confirm the infection. The appearance of blisters on or around the genitals and the rectum, and even the mouth, is called an outbreak. Once the blisters emerge and break, they are contagious and may take several weeks to heal.
Pregnant women who have a partner with genital herpes must get tested. The virus can be passed to the baby during birth or, more rarely, while still in the womb through the umbilical cord. They are at the most significant risk of contracting it if the mothers first herpes infections occur during the third trimester.
Complications of neonatal herpes range from a high fever and skin blisters to seizures, convulsions, and even death.
HSV-2 infection can also increase your risk of contracting other sexually transmitted diseases , including HIV. You should get tested for HSV-2 if you:
- Have a sex partner with HIV or another STD
- Are a man who engages in sex with other men
- Have multiple sexual partners
The CDC also recommends testing for anyone with a partner who has genital herpes. Testing can determine if you have the virus. If not, your doctor can advise you on ways to lower the risk of contracting genital herpes.
How To Get Rid Of Herpes Symptoms Naturally
By Joe Boland
Herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases , prompting many to wonder how to get rid of herpes naturally.
The herpes virus can live dormant inside a persons immune system for a lifetime, periodically causing blisters that burst and turn into open cold sores or ulcers before healing. When left alone, herpes cold sores usually last about 1014 days and are uncomfortable for a variety of reasons causing redness, pain, burning and often embarrassment.
Many people wonder if there is a natural cure for herpes or are looking for ways on how to get rid of herpes for good. While technically the virus that causes herpes is not curable, there are many natural herpes remedies that can put herpes into remission. In fact, many people with herpes dont experience any symptoms at all, especially long term, once they learn to manage triggers of outbreaks. So while theres no guide for how to get rid of herpes naturally, there is a method for how to get rid of herpes symptoms the natural way and keep breakouts at bay.
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What Does The Test Result Mean
Direct detection of the virus
- A positive HSV DNA test or culture indicates that you have an active herpes infection, and the result may indicate if it is HSV-1 or HSV-2.
- A negative PCR test or culture indicates that the herpes simplex virus was not detected, but this does not definitely rule out an infection. False negatives can occur if there is not enough active virus in the sample. This may happen if the lesion is cultured more than 48 hours after the symptoms appear. If suspicion of herpes remains high, repeat testing may be done.
Antibody blood tests
- A positive HSV-1 or HSV-2 IgG antibody test means antibodies are present in your blood, which means you have had an infection in the past even if you haven’t noticed any symptoms. The type of antibody detected indicates the type of HSV infection.
- Negative HSV antibody results mean that it is unlikely that you have been exposed to HSV or it may mean that your body has not had time to begin producing HSV antibodies.