What Do The Results Mean
Your HSV test results will be given as negative, also called normal, or positive, also called abnormal.
Negative/Normal. The herpes virus was not found. You may still have an HSV infection if your results were normal. It may mean the sample didn’t have enough of the virus to be detected. If you still have symptoms of herpes, you may need to get tested again.
Positive/Abnormal. HSV was found in your sample. It may mean you have an active infection , or were infected in the past .
If you tested positive for HSV, talk to your health care provider. While there is no cure for herpes, it hardly ever causes serious health problems. Some people may only have one outbreak of sores their whole lives, while others break out more often. If you want to reduce the severity and number of your outbreaks, your provider may prescribe a medicine that can help.
Learn more about laboratory tests, reference ranges, and understanding results.
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Herpes Is A Common Infection
Herpes is a super-common infection that stays in your body for life. More than half of Americans have oral herpes, and about 1 out of 6 Americans has genital herpes. So chances are a few people you know are living with herpes.
Theres no cure for herpes, but medication can ease your symptoms and lower your chances of giving the virus to other people. And the good news is, outbreaks usually become less frequent over time, and even though herpes can sometimes be uncomfortable and painful, its not dangerous. People with herpes have relationships, have sex, and live perfectly healthy lives.
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Is Herpes Simplex Related To Herpes Zoster
Like HSV-1 and HSV-2, shingles can cause a painful, blistering rash. The shingles rash usually shows up on the back, side, abdomen , neck and face. It is often only on half of your body, following the pattern of your nerves. See your healthcare provider if you have a new rash and suspect you may have shingles.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Herpes simplex is a virus. Once you have herpes, its a lifelong condition. A herpes infection can lead to outbreaks , but youll also have times when you have no symptoms. The main sign of herpes is sores that appear on the infected skin. Some people choose not to treat herpes, especially if symptoms are mild. Others take antiviral medications to reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2022.
What Happens During An Hsv Test
HSV testing is usually done as a swab test, blood test, or lumbar puncture. The type of test you get will depend on your symptoms and health history.
- For a swab test, a health care provider will use a swab to collect fluid and cells from a herpes sore.
- For a blood test, a health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
- A lumbar puncture, also called a spinal tap, is only done if your provider thinks you may have an infection of the brain or spinal cord. During a spinal tap:
- You will lie on your side or sit on an exam table.
- A health care provider will clean your back and inject an anesthetic into your skin, so you won’t feel pain during the procedure. Your provider may put a numbing cream on your back before this injection.
- Once the area on your back is completely numb, your provider will insert a thin, hollow needle between two vertebrae in your lower spine. Vertebrae are the small backbones that make up your spine.
- Your provider will withdraw a small amount of cerebrospinal fluid for testing. This will take about five minutes.
- Your provider may ask you to lie on your back for an hour or two after the procedure. This may prevent you from getting a headache afterward.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes Simplex
Many people with the infection never experience any herpes symptoms. If you do notice symptoms, youll experience them differently depending on whether youre having your first herpes outbreak or a repeat outbreak. Recurring symptoms are usually milder than the first outbreak. Symptoms dont last as long with later outbreaks. Some people may only have one or two outbreaks during their lifetime. Others may have as many as four or five outbreaks a year.
People who do have herpes symptoms may experience:
- Cold sores around their lips, mouth or tongue. They may look crusty or like fluid-filled blisters.
- Tingling, itching or burning.
What Happens At A Sexual Health Clinic
The doctor or nurse at the sexual health clinic will:
- ask about your symptoms and your sexual partners
- use a small cotton bud to take some fluid from 1 of your blisters or sores for testing
The test cannot:
- be done if you do not have visible blisters or sores
- tell you how long you have had herpes or who you got it from
Symptoms might not appear for weeks or even years after you’re infected with the herpes virus.
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Can Herpes Go Away Forever
While the signs and symptoms associated with both types of herpes can come and go, the virus stays in the body and there is no cure.
With that said, the treatments available can help herpes outbreaks become shorter and less frequent. There are also medications available that can lower the risk of spreading the infection to others.
One of the best ways to reduce your risk of contracting an STD is with regular screening. This can be done by taking a trip to your doctors office or from the comfort of your own home with an at-home lab test.
LetsGetCheckeds at-home Herpes Test can detect herpes simplex antibodies for either HSV-1 or HSV-2. Online results will be available within 5 days and our dedicated medical team will be there to offer a helping hand should you have any questions.
You should consider taking the test if:
- You become sexually active
- You have had unprotected sex
- You are experiencing symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection
- You are entering into a new sexual relationship
- You have received a notification from a previous partner that they are infected
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When Should You Consider Getting Tested
Herpes is a sneaky, deceitful virus. It hides deep inside your nerve cells for unpredictable periods of time before triggering visible symptoms. In many cases, it infects the body and spreads to others without any obvious signs at all. As many as 90 percent of people infected with herpes are unaware they have the virus because theyve never experienced an outbreak.
People who dont have symptoms are more likely to transmit the herpes virus through a phenomenon known as asymptomatic shedding. This occurs when the virus sheds from the skin and spreads to others, even when no sores are present. Asymptomatic shedding is undetectable as there are no signs or symptoms, but it’s real.
According to research, at least 70% of infected people experience asymptomatic shedding of HSV-1 at least once a month. Many may even shed the herpes virus without symptoms more than six times per month.
Given that the herpes virus doesnt always trigger outbreaks and symptoms, testing is an important way to monitor your health. The CDC recommends testing if you are experiencing symptoms that could be related to herpes or if you recently had sex with a new partner who has genital herpes.
Remember, its possible that early herpes symptoms may not seem related to herpes. An initial herpes outbreak causes flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, fever and chills. These symptoms may be paired with pain, itching and redness around the affected area.
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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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What Should I Do If My Test Results Are Positive
Many at-home services have independent physicians or nurses reach out to people with positive test results. Theyll discuss your results with you and suggest a plan of action, possibly including medication.
If your results are positive, its important to let any recent sexual partners know so they can also get tested.
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How Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnancy
- If you get genital herpes during pregnancy, you can spread genital herpes to your baby during delivery.
- If you had genital herpes before pregnancy, your baby is still at risk of getting herpes, but the risk is lower.
Most women with genital herpes have healthy babies. But babies who get herpes from their mother have neonatal herpes. Neonatal herpes is a serious condition that can cause problems in a newborn baby such as brain damage, eye problems, or even death.
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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What Else Do I Need To Know Before I Appear For An Hsv Igm Test
The following points can be noted to understand the finer aspects of the test and the viral infection. The IgM tests cannot be used to determine how long the infection has been prevalent in the body or how the patient got infected. The IgM blood test cannot accurately distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibodies and in many cases can provide a false-positive result for HSV-2 virus. In addition, the test can also connect with other viruses like the varicella-zoster virus or cytomegalovirus and provide misleading results. Many patients experience regular herpes outbreaks while in some the virus can remain dormant. It has been noted that the virus can be triggered by certain factors like stress. Issues related to menstrual periods, fever or infections and excessive sun exposure or sunburn. The virus generally does not create any additional complications in a healthy person. The infections can get severe in the case of new-borns who are infected during birth and in individuals with weakened immune systems. It has been noted that herpes can make patients more vulnerable to HIV infections and up to 90% of HIV-infected individuals are found to be co-infected with HSV-2 virus. This is a very common infection around the world and as per statistics, the infections are most common in Africa and least prevalent in the USA.
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How Do You Test For Herpes
You can test for herpes in three different ways: a blood test, a urine test, and/ or a swab test. The right test for you will depend on:
- whether you have any symptoms at the time of your test
- how long ago you think you might have been exposed
- where you think you have herpes
- your personal preferences
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Why Genital Herpes Comes Back
Genital herpes is caused by a virus called herpes simplex. Once you have the virus, it stays in your body.
It will not spread in your body to cause blisters elsewhere. It stays in a nearby nerve and causes blisters in the same area.
If you can, avoid things that trigger your symptoms.
Triggers can include:
- surgery on your genital area
- a weakened immune system for example, from having chemotherapy for cancer
Submission And Collection Notes
Follow the instructions found in the Virus-Culture Kit Instruction Sheet.
HSV resistance testing is also available at NML (National Microbiology Laboratory, Winnipeg when clinically indicated. Specimens submitted for this test is initially cultured at PHO Laboratory prior to submission to NML for HSV 1 or HSV 2 resistant testing: NML guidelines-Viral Exanthemata and STDs-Viral STI, Polyoma and Herpesvirus unit.
Why Are There State
Syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are notifiable diseases in the United States, but herpes is not. A disease is notifiable if healthcare providers in all 50 states are required by law to report the diagnosis to their state or local health departments. CDC is also notified, and publishes state-by-state data for these infections. Because herpes infections are not notifiable infections by law, CDC is not able to provide state-by-state data. Public health surveillance for herpes infections is mainly done through population-based, national surveys, such as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey .
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.
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What Happens During A Herpes Test
If you have blisters or sores, your doctor or nurse will gently take a sample of fluid from the sores with a swab and test it.
If you dont have any sores, talk with your doctor or nurse about whether a blood test for herpes makes sense for you. But herpes tests arenât normally recommended unless you do have symptoms.
The idea of getting tested may seem scary, but try to chill out. STD testing is a regular part of being a responsible adult and taking care of your health. And herpes tests are quick and usually painless.
When To Talk With A Doctor
Talk with a doctor if you notice any sores on or around your genitals. Other STIs, like syphilis, can look like herpes but need different treatment. Treatment is needed to prevent complications and transmission.
Your doctor will let you know whether you should test for herpes or another STI, and they can help you get treatment if needed.
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