Herpes Transmission


How is Genital Herpes Spread?

Genital herpes can be transmitted with or without the presence of sores or other symptoms and is often transmitted by people who are unaware that they are infected.

The cold sore and herpes virus is generally spread by skin-to-skin contact. There is a risk of the virus spreading when the first signs of tingling or itching begin (prodrome), as well as when no sores or blisters are visible.

How is Herpes Spread?
Asymptomatic Transmission (spreading that occasionally occurs when there are no visible symptoms)
Can Herpes be transmitted during pregnancy and can the herpes virus be passed on to a baby?


How is Herpes Spread?

Direct contact with the live virus including:

  • Any direct contact with an herpes infection
  • Kissing, touching or caressing actively infected areas
  • Sexual contact (vaginal, oral, or anal sex)
  • Cold sores or mouth herpes can be spread by sharing the same drinking glass, lipstick, cigarette, etc.

Herpes can be spread by any of the following real-life situations:

- Kissing someone if you have a cold sore can transfer the virus to any part of the body that you kiss them (including inside of the mouth and throat, or the genitals).

- The virus can be transmitted to your partner if you have active genital herpes and have vaginal or anal intercourse.

- If you have a cold sore and put your mouth on your partner’s genitals (oral sex), your partner can be infected with genital herpes. Consequently, oral sex should definitely be avoided if one partner has a facial herpes attack.

- People who experience an episode of herpes, either facial or genital, should consider themselves infectious from the first sign of an outbreak to the healing of the last ulcer.

- Occasionally, one partner in a long-term relationship may develop symptoms of herpes for the first time. Often this is due to one or both of the partners being asymptomatic carriers of HSV and not knowing it.

- A mother can pass the virus onto her baby during pregnancy or at birth. Having children is possible if you have herpes, please read this article Having Children and Having Herpes for facts and guidance.

- One kind of complication involves spreading the virus from the location of an outbreak to other places on the body by touching the sore(s). The fingers, eyes, and other body areas can accidentally become infected in this way. Preventing self-infection is simple. Do not touch the area during an outbreak. If you do, wash your hands as soon as possible with soap and warm water.

- It is generally considered that the spreading of genital herpes through inanimate objects, such as soap, towels, clothing, bed sheets, toilet seats, and spa surfaces is highly unlikely because the herpes virus cannot live very long outside of the body.

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Can Herpes Be Spread Without Symptoms?

Sometimes those who know they are infected spread the virus between outbreaks when no signs or symptoms are present. This is called asymptomatic transmission.

Herpes simplex infections are often spread by people who are unaware they are infected because their symptoms may be so mild as to be unnoticeable or may not relate the symptoms to herpes. Many genital herpes infections are spread by asymptomatic “shedders” of the virus. The virus can still be present in people with no obvious lesions during periods of asymptomatic virus shedding.

Many couples have had sexual relations for years without transmitting herpes. Some simply avoid having sexual contact when signs or symptoms are present, while others use condoms or other protection between outbreaks to help protect against asymptomatic shedding.

Asymptomatic virus shedding cannot be predicted but is known to occur on at least 5% of days during the year.

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Can Herpes be transmitted during pregnancy and or be passed onto the baby?

If you have ever been exposed to herpes talk with your doctor before planning a pregnancy, even if you have never had symptoms or have not experienced a recurrence in a long time.

You will need to contact your health care professional for more information about pregnancy with herpes, and to obtain appropriate tests and follow-up care for the pregnancy.

Should you have herpes present in the birth canal near the time of delivery, a cesarean section might be necessary to protect the newborn from coming into direct contact with the virus.

if you or your partner have herpes and are preparing to have children then read this article Having Children and Having Herpes to learn more about what you should consider to help prevent any problems.

Babies can also contract herpes from being kissed by someone with a cold sore (5 – 8%). A young child cannot fight off infections as easily as an adult can, so serious health problems can occur. If you suffer from cold sores take every precaution not to put an infant child at risk.
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