Why You Should Assume Everyone Has Herpes

A lab image of herpes virus

I’m sure my boyfriend doesn’t have herpes, a patient recently told Dr. Lydia Shrier, an adolescent medicine specialist at Children’s Hospital Boston.

How could she be so sure? Dr. Shrier asked. Because, the patient replied, she had scoped out his body and “there’s nothing irregular about him.”

Dr. Shrier, a researcher on sexually transmitted infections, goes through this kind of conversation all the time. Patients tell her that they’ve never had blisters or lesions or sores, and so cannot possibly have genital herpes. The same for their sexual partners.

It falls to her to disabuse them of these notions, saying: “You can have lesions or not, you can have symptoms or not, you should basically be operating the same way, which is to assume that everyone has herpes.” That means taking precautions, from limiting sexual contact to using condoms.

Dr. Lydia Shrier

Though this is her longstanding message, she now has better evidence to back it up than ever before. Last week, a pre-eminent researcher on the genital herpes virus, known as Herpes Simplex Virus 2 or HSV-2, published a landmark paper documenting the striking rate at which people with no herpes symptoms can nonetheless “shed virus,” potentially infecting partners.

The study, led by Dr. Anna Wald of the University of Washington, found that people who’d had symptoms of herpes shed virus on about 20 percent of days, while people who test positive for herpes antibodies but have never had symptoms shed virus on only about 10 percent of days.

But here’s the kicker: When they’re shedding, people who’ve never had symptoms shed roughly the same amount of virus as people who’ve had symptoms. So it’s clearer than ever that lack of symptoms is no guarantee against infection. And in fact, Dr. Wald said, “Asymptomatic shedding may be the central phenomenon of transmission.”

In the old days, doctors would warn herpes patients to avoid sexual contact mainly when they had active lesions, believing that was the only time they were really contagious.

But evidence has long been growing that herpes can be transmitted even when no lesions are visible. The new study, by quantifying how much virus is shed even in the absence of symptoms, “is a real ‘aha!’ moment,” said Fred Wyand, spokesman for the American Social Health Association. “It’s really robust in terms of the number of subjects they enrolled and the length of time they were followed,” he said.

The study also helps explain how genital herpes has become so wildly common, infecting nearly one-fifth of the American adult population, given that it’s hard to imagine many people would want sex while they had the painful nether-regions equivalent of cold sores. Consider this stunning fact from the American Social Health Association:

In the United States, more people have genital herpes than all other sexually transmitted infections combined -– 50 million people in total.

There are more mind-boggling statistics. Last week, NPR’s Science Friday spoke with University of North Carolina professor of medicine Peter Leone about genital herpes. Here’s a memorable piece of the transcript:

DR. LEONE: So if you look at some population-based data in the United States and look at unmarried adults, meaning folks between the ages of 45 and 50, for women, we know the prevalence rate for genital herpes due to HSV-2 is between 50 and 70 percent. So we’re looking at close to the majority or the majority of folks in that age group who are single having genital herpes. So…

FLATOW: Let me go over that number again because you’re saying that – it’s hard to believe – you’re saying that for women between the age of 40 and 50…

Dr. LEONE: Right.

FLATOW: … unmarried women?

Dr. LEONE: Yes, unmarried women.

FLATOW: You’re saying that between 50 and 75 percent of them have herpes type 2?

Dr. LEONE: That’s exactly right. Yeah.


Dr. LEONE: I know. It causes me to pause. I read the article about five times myself, saying, wow, and I do this for a living.

The latest CDC figures on genital herpes prevalence, as measured by blood tests for antibodies, are here. Highlights:
-More than 80% of people with herpes are undiagnosed.
-Overall prevalence by the time people reach their forties is 26%.
-In the general population, one-fifth of women and 11.5% of men are infected.

And that doesn’t even tell the whole story. Dr. Shrier of Children’s pointed out that “herpes is tricky:” genital herpes infections can also involve HSV-1, the virus known best as “cold sores” around the mouth. If someone with HSV-1 performs oral sex, the receiving partner may contract genital herpes, though it is HSV-1 rather than the typical 2. And HSV-1 is so widespread that pretty much everyone gets it by the time they’re elderly, she said.

More reasons that herpes has spread so far and wide: It does not need intercourse to spread; mere skin-to-skin contact is enough. It can lie dormant for many years, suddenly cropping up in the midst of monogamous marriages.

And an obvious one: It has no cure, unlike chlamydia, gonorrhea and most other sexually transmitted diseases. Recent attempts to develop a vaccine fizzled, though more research is under way. Herpes patients can take antiviral drugs to shorten their outbreaks — and to become less infectious — but no existing pill can make it go away altogether.

Is testing the answer?
So given that a huge swath of the population has genital herpes and that four-fifths of them don’t even know it, is testing the way to go? If more people know they carry it, might they be more careful and become less likely to infect others?

Dr. Anna Wald argues that yes, more testing would help. Oftentimes, she said, when people start a relationship with a new partner and go for Sexually Transmitted Disease testing, it is not routine for a herpes antibody test to be included.

“There’s this disconnect between the frequency of the disease and the impact it has on people’s lives, and how we diagnose it,” she said. “Because those couples have a relationship, and if one transmits it to the other, it could be devastating to both.”

Herpes tests have improved a great deal in the last few years, she said, and “I believe in shared decision-making between the clinician and the patient, so I think if people are concerned about having herpes and want to be tested for it, it’s reasonable to offer the test.”

Dr. Shrier, too, said that she would arrange a test for a patient who wanted one, and that it can be helpful to identify “discordant couples” in which only one partner has herpes. But she does not support widespread screening.

“More than 50 million people in the United States have herpes Type 2, and the vast majority of them don’t know they have it,” she said. “If everybody went out and got tested, would it change anything? No. Just knowing you have the antibodies shouldn’t necessarily drive much of anything because you should be practicing safer sex anyway. You just never know, and your partner never knows.”

(Follow-up post: One Reader’s Response On Herpes: Not Necessarily A Big Deal)
Further reading:
The American Social Health Association has an excellent FAQ on genital herpes here.
The CDC fact sheet is here.

(A 2011 Favorite)

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  • Admiral America

    What i can’t stand are these herp sickos who still think they have a right to go around having sex. Also they seem to think they can kiss anyone including their own poor kids who then become infected with the herp. Anyone worth a crap should realize once you have a disease like the herp you don’t get to do any of that stuff anymore. Someday most of the populace will probably have this or some other sicky sex disease. Whether it’s AIDS or oral herp you’re done! Jack off, and kiss your hand! Accept it, and stop damning everyone to a life of disease ridden rot. Thanks to you selfish idiots you’ve reduced the disease free dating pool greatly!

  • http://www.herpesfish.com HerpesFish

    I was diagnosed almost 3 years ago an of course I thought my life was

    OVER, id be a lepor, no friends, no social life and the feeling of

    BEING UNWANTED socially and romantically..GOD FORBITD A MAN WOULD WANT TO BE WITH ME! I was afraid, depressed and just wanted to crawl into a

    whole and whither away. But a really good friend pulled me back from

    that bink and made me see how much i was worth and that there would be

    someone who thought I would be worth loving and that things would get

    better. then I found the site http://www.HerpesFish.com .What can i

    say? I’ts been a blessing i met some people, made good friends..the

    “gift” We all share bonds us and we all share different levels of

    “love” and support each other in SO many ways. I’ve learned to love

    myself and hope someday to share that love with someone else…I have

    hope for love and still haven’t given up, but I do love on so many

    levels..I hope to find the one here someday.. HerpesFish.com has so

    much to offer I couldn’t recommend it enough.

  • stdsingles

    The emotional impact of discovering that you have herpes can outweigh the physical health issues one has to deal with. Go to http://www.HSVDatingClub.com to find support and other singles with herpes in your area!

  • Beth

    “If everybody went out and got tested, would it change anything? No. Just knowing you have the antibodies shouldn’t necessarily drive much of anything because you should be practicing safer sex anyway. You just never know, and your partner never knows.”

    So… you’re saying that testing won’t prevent things like breaking up perfectly healthy existing relationships when a flare up is assumed to be because of cheating?

    • Steve Konrad

      I disagree and multiple levels and excuse me if I am a little blunt here but I know a close friend that has it so its personal.First of all just the magnitude of the epidemic alone warrants a more comprehensive approach. Keeping people in the dark about information that can drastically effect the lives of other people is wrong and to say that it dosent matter because people don’t care if they spread it is asinine.Who the hell do you think you are?I say that people most certainly will take steps to reduce infection spread if they know they have it.The only good reason for not having wide spread testing is obviously as the epidemic grows it means a lot more money for the manufacturers of the “antivirals”.A million new cases a year in the USA alone,you do the math.I suppose some would also see it as a form of population control too.

  • nameis

    Ive had hsv1 for 20years since age 5, over this time period they have gotten smaller and smaller to the point of they dont come/exist anymore. going on to 2 years no outbreak as from before atleast once a year. when it did it was only one on bottom lip, my gf knows im positive and she is completely negative, were not sure really what to do

  • T.j. Effum

    The risk of getting HIV is simply due to the risky lifestyle people with HSV typically live…the rest of your health risk statement is true. Like blindness, often from self inoculation. All very scary things that can be avoided through education, safer practice, and testing.

  • T.j. Effum

    That’s a valid question…I joined the army in 2006…the last time I had a real check up was in high school playing sports….even then, none of those times was I given a test. It was never a part of a physical that I have been given. In fact, I think it’s a damn scary thing that men aren’t tested for STD/STI on a normal physical.

  • T.j. Effum

    ABSOLUTELY FALSE! A woman’s transmission rate is FAR greater simply due to two facts…a woman generally is prone to internal outbreak, and that internal outbreaks become less noticeable as symptoms become less severe.

  • T.j. Effum

    The only thing I have a disagreement with you on is the statement that having herpes increases your chances of contracting HIV…I know you were mocking other statements, but the actual stats are not that simply having it increases your chances but that people who do have HSV are 2-3 more times likely to contract HIV simply because they are high risk individuals. That stat wasn’t actually addressing the virus itself, but the behaviors of people. But as you said, protect yourself. I personally feel that if you don’t know someone well enough to where you think you need a condom, don’t fuck em. That’s like calling someone your best friend but feeling the need for a concealed weapon when they’re around.

  • T.j. Effum

    I’ve even heard “The doctor said it’s stress related.”

    No. It’s balls related.

  • T.j. Effum

    When they mentioned that 80% of people with herpes are undiagnosed, where do you suppose they pulled that fact from? That’s the part that boggles me the most. I’ve heard that somewhere between 1 and 5, and 1 and 6 have some form of the virus…which I believe is much lighter than the actual number…but to declare a percentage of undiagnosed individuals seems rather ignorant to me when it comes from doctors as they typically only operate on proof of existence and presented, well documented fact. I would feel different if the article said “possibly 80%”…

  • andrewwww

    at the same time, herpes cant kill you…maybe it should be treated more like chicken pox instead of hiv

    • Castle Chloe

      I met the most magnificent man at http://www.HerpesPal.com
      . It’s been two years now and I’m still as excited to see him as I was
      the first day we met. He’s amazing and he’s helped me see my worth,
      something no one else has ever done. I love him with all my heart and I
      can’t wait until the next time I see his face.

      I’m not good at giving advice but all I can tell you is when I least
      expected to meet someone, the most precious man in the world actually
      noticed me at the same time I noticed him and it’s absolutely wonderful.

    • zaiger

      Chicken pox goes away after a week or two. Herpes is forever, like HIV (which also doesn’t kill you).

      • Beth

        Chicken pox is forever, as it’s a herpes virus. It can come back later as shingles. My grandmother had a shingles outbreak in her 80s and it damaged her brain.

    • http://www.herpespal.com Chloe Gorge

      agree. herpes is not hiv, will not affect your kill you

    • http://www.herpespal.com Chloe Gorge

      After learning about my condition, I honestly felt like my life was over. I came across HerpesPal.c o m and read all the personal stories and found that there are regular people, just like me, who are dealing with the same situation. I found the love of my life all because of my condition and the website. It’s funny how life works out sometimes. I wish everyone the best!

    • Han Solo Solomon

      Maybe you should keep your nasty herp ridden body to yourself.

      • chloe10232

        There is so much prejudice around herpes, and other stds and it’s not always down to irresponsibility, I got herpes from
        my mom during birth and have lived with it my whole life. Peoplewithherpes.org is a herpes dating site with a loving, welcoming and accepting community of people and it’s very busy and active. I made a lot of good friends there who accept me unconditionally and I also met a great girl and we are hoping to settle down together. Wishing you the best of luck meeting someone :)

      • Steve Konrad

        A friend of mine got herpes 2 recently, he doesn’t deserve it ,he is a good guy, just young and horny I guess. Now months later he still has constant outbreaks, the so called “antiviral”drugs have minimal effect if any at all. See that’s the thing about this fucking disease, on the one hand you got pricks like you running your pathetic loser mouth and on the other hand you got all these big liars lined up with dollar signs in their eyes and the gorilla gloves on each hand making false claims about how their treatment is the best.If you know a little history you know pharmaceutical companys are the worst and most greedy.No body of notoriety takes this disease seriously because it dosent kill you,It just hijacks your sexuality and the average is only three partners.He is depressed now all the time and talks about suicide.Its hard for me to find the words to say without sounding like I’m full of shit.Last I heard there was only one group world wide that had any hope for a cure.Thats at Duke univ.,but that too has fizzled a bit.Their hopes of forcing the “sleeping virus out of the nerve cells so they can be attacked by anti virals wont work unless they isolate more dna.It seems every time humans get closer to check mate the dam thing has another move up its sleeve.

        • Celestea Deanes

          Tell your friend to see a natural therapist. herbs like goldenseal do wonders, don’t cost much. God bless

      • Cory

        Dude ur soo rude its not like people intend to get it. So dont be an ass you obvs dont know the emotional trauma some people go threw it and something to look down on people for.

      • Jeffrey C. Soto

        Yeah, this is the kind of beautiful sentiment that you get in an anonymous medium.

    • Emma Madison

      Heya, I wanna share my story on in here, well at first I didn’t know if I was ready to date after I found out that I was diagnosed with herpes. Then my friend recommended me MPWHerpes.com, I just wanted to get to know everybody else’s story and how I should handle and adjusted to this new kind of life. After about a month, I was starting to give up already, but then I found out my partner who is now engaged to me, favorite me on his favorite list. I knew something special about him. So after about a month of completely ignoring me and now wanting to answer my phone calls he finally gave up and he knew that there was a great chemistry between us. After a month of talking I made a daring move and asked him if I could meet him for the first time. He took the bait. Lol, When the day finally came to meet for the first time, I was so nervous that I did not know what to expect but the real deal from him. Once I stepped foot off that plane and saw him for the first time. I knew he would be my future partner and he said the exact same thing about me being his future wife. We are crazy in love for each other and I couldn’t thank this website and of course God to bring him in my life and showed me how to open my heart up again and learn how to love once more. We are now talking on being engaged and he is in the process on purchasing our engagement ring, he thinks I dont know about that, but actually I do, and waiting for his approach. Hehehe Thank you again MPWHerpes.com!

      • http://www.top10herpesdatingsites.com/ Elva Joseph

        Awwwwh, such a sweet story, Haapy for you all the best for your future, and I hope he proposes you soon and get married soon. And yeah definitely the site is really awesone, thanks for the share. Be blessed. :)

  • andrewwww

    your paragraphs give no solace to those that have been systematically shunned in their society

  • andrewwww

    its a shame that some people succumb to depression and relationship timidity while other go on sexing it up at the club scene and passing it on unaware…they have no idea how they could be destroying peoples lives

  • lebron real daddy

    I aint been tested in 30 years!!!!!!!! got damn It!!!

  • Bridgette

    Let me know how that works out for you.

  • herpessupportforum

    According to counselor of http://www.HerpesFish.com , 16 percent of Americans have HSV-2 infections. The vast majority — between 75 percent and 90 percent – don’t know they are infected because they don’t get, or don’t notice, herpes sores on their genitals. So, we should not judge a person by herpes because you may have it but do not know.

  • Foood Pleez

    I don’t agree, I got HSV from sharing a cigarette with someone who to my knowledge never passed HSV on to anyone else of several people she contacted(sexually, cup, bottle rim, ciggs, etc.)

    My opinion from both experience and research is that HSV is overly stigmatized with promiscuity for one, and second is that only people with compromised immune systems ever show any symptoms. I have an “autoimmune condition” possibly thanks to fluoride and now bone-on-bone hips. I currently need to take Enbrel which suppresses the immune system. Otherwise my hips would be so inflamed that I would kill myself within 4-8 months probably.

    I believe that good overall health is the ultimate solution to HSV(and almost everything else). On that note I just did a liver/gallbladder flush, it removed several cholesterol stones the size of large olives(accounts for years or decades of toxins). Also changed from 1 year as a vegan, to raw paleo very recently, because apparently our anatomy is closer to a lion than a cow.

    The Biggest consequence to sex is the karma of bringing another wrapper opening human into this plane of pain. DON’T GET PREGNANT!! Unless you like the idea of giving Monsanto, the FDA, the AMA and the WHO more target practice.. Their intentions seem evil, but then again how sustainable is our relentlessly growing population? Let’s say wolves keep the bunny population in check so they don’t eat all the carrots and starve to near extinction. If we are bunnies, the wolf is a depopulation program? Are we as stupid as bunnies?

    The artificial H1N1 “swine flu” virus:

    If anything deserves a stigma these days, it is popping out babies. Unfortunately that’s not likely to happen until its too late.

  • Francisco Martinavarro

    That’s why it is good to have self-control and only have sex with an established partner. I don’t understand the people who see recreational sex as a necessity. they must be spiritually dead on the inside.

    • Stephen Atchison

      Meh – with the prevalence of it, and the lack of symptoms, it’s not going to take much to get it. Chances are I’ve had it for a couple of decades, and only just found out.

      • andrewwww

        and probably gave it to a dozen women who had symptoms and were emotionally destroyed and may never have a healthy relationship again…either the stigma has to go (like chicken pox) or idiots like you ave to go….seriously

    • Jeffrey C. Soto

      I don’t understand why you need to reduce people who like things differently than you do to philosophical zombies, but I imagine it’s because you’re full of yourself on the inside.

  • disappointed

    if it is the most highly spread then it should be the most highly tested…more and more innocent people are being victimized and stigmatized and it is wrong..sex-is contact with another person.. kissing, touching, oral or whatever the definition of sex should be changed…people have oral sex to avoid diseases and then getting it from a cold sore…bad education…Sex is—– being with another person physically in any manner…and why are advertisements for cold sore products ….not informing people..this is criminal either everyone should just have it like chicken pox or stop the madness require everyone to take the test..it is wrong! Celebrities walk around with cold sores and NO ONE says she has herpes…yet if you have it on your genitals you have herpes….this is madness!

    • andrewwww

      doctors dont care cuz it doesnt kill ppl…and ppl dont care cuz they dont have symptoms..yet those that get symptoms are destroyed by it

    • glory

      I totally concur with that sentiment!! :*

  • herpessupportforum

    According to statistics of http://www.HerpesFish.com ,16 percent of Americans have

    HSV-2 infections. The vast majority — between 75 percent and 90 percent –

    don’t know they are infected because they don’t get, or don’t notice,

    herpes sores on their genitals.

  • herpessupportforum

    According to statistics of http://www.HSVDatingClub.com , 16 percent of Americans have HSV-2 infections. The vast majority — between 75 percent and 90 percent – don’t know they are infected because they don’t get, or don’t notice, herpes sores on their genitals.

  • Aaron D

    If someone has antibodies for the virus, then they have the virus. That’s how viral tests are done; testing for antibodies. A person is asymptomatic if they haven’t had an outbreak ever (or yet).

    • Bridgette

      You can have antibodies to something and not have an infection. If your body cleared the infection. All immune systems are not equal

      • John

        You have to have the sores tested, a blood test will nearly always come up negative whether you have it or not. I know bc I’m one of the hypochondriacs..

  • Mark Strange Love

    hsv1 and hsv2 are not localized to any region, either can be called genital herpes.

  • Mark Strange Love

    Even those who are infected who’ve never had an outbreak shed the virus as well, about 10 days each month compared to someone with an active outbreak of 20 day. However, those who don’t show signs, still shed as much of the virus as someone with an active outbreak, I know it sounds complicated, but point your browser to the CDC and they have some very good information. or next time you see your physician, ask about this, and get tested.

    • Hold up

      That’s 10 and 20 -percent- of days, not 10 and 20 days per month. So 10% of days would be about 3 days per month, and 20% of days would be about 6 days a month.

  • Mark Strange Love

    Your attitude is a very good example why this virus has become so widespread.

  • chloe10232

    Living with Herpes is really hard, especially when you are a single. According to a report from the official Herpes singles dating site http://www.HerpesPal.com, 98% of its members who used to be on a general dating site to find the love and support were rejected by others. That could be the reason that why HerpesPal.com is so popular and now has more than 730,000 members and most of them are verified. It also offers 24X7 customer services.

    This site also has professional STD counselor, you may ask him online directly or check his question and answer. Hope this information is usefully for you.

  • duvalboy2004

    I dont believe none of this shit you guys are speaking.. sounds like TV learning info most of you are posting.. truth be told.. it ain’t no differences. you got herpes simplex and that’s it.. Not no herpes 1 and 2, when its practically the same virus.. that shit was label and used to scared and confused people.. its a multi-billion dollar business.. so why would they wanna cure you?

  • Philosophy Science

    There is a vaccine that works, it is the live attenuated ICP0-defficient vaccine. But, it can’t get a phase 1 trial in the USA and it is not legalized. The sub-unit vaccines are what have failed. There is already a vaccine for HSV-1 and HSV-2, but you can’t get it, that is the over simplified truth. We need to find a country that will legalize that vaccine.

    • bigga

      How do you know if there is a vaccine that works

      • Philosophy Science

        Because this vaccine has been tested properly in animal models using a positive control while others were not. It is also the only totally live attenuated type vaccine, which is the kind that normally works for all vaccines, but they have been trying to not use that type for the past 40 years for HSV. I can’t say for sure, but it is basically guaranteed to work compared to all the rest. This is the blog by the creator explaining: http://herpesvaccine.scienceblog.com

  • http://wowisme.net/ Adryenn Ashley

    Have you seen OrganicDefense.com? I never had cold sores growing up and a few years ago dated a man who “forgot” to mention he does, and now I test positive! I’ve only ever had one tiny incidence of bee sting like pain on my mouth that I treated with over the counter meds. But my face is my business and there is no way I can afford a cold sore. Ever. So I take Organic Defense and I’ve never had another close call. I’ve experimented with less expensive versions of it, but always go back to the real thing. So while its not a vaccine and is something you have to take everyday, it’s natural, it has no side effects and it simply works!

    • Mark Strange Love

      herpes spam!

      • T.j. Effum

        There was another one up top! About dating! LMAO! I need to start an LLC or something and just troll around promoting bullshit. Wanna invest?

    • andrewwww

      yet, you probably date a new guy now..and bet u havnt toldhim bout it, andifu have, bet he dont know what a “cold sore” really is…southpark said it best “cold sores” are just what girls call herpes

    • T.j. Effum

      You experimented with other less expensive versions…what made you go back?

  • neonangel

    Unless your beloved picked up a cold sore through sharing chapstick with someone when she was eight. Your virgin wife still has herpes.

  • Aaron Daszko

    It makes me wonder just the same. Many clinics won’t even offer a herpes test unless you have symptoms (an outbreak) and its amazing how many clinicians will confuse “HSV” with hepatitis. People have to communicate properly for the sake of their health. So, do yourself a favor when asking for an STD screening that you “want to be tested for herpes”. Spell them all out for the sake of understanding.
    Men typically don’t go enough, but that’s people in general who avoid getting tested simply out of fear for what the results would show. Simply put, too many people subscribe to the belief that ignorance is bliss.

    • Mark Strange Love

      You can go to any health clinic in any county and get a total std screening for free and pretty much anonymously. But remember, if you test positive for syphilis or gonorrhea, they are going to ask who you’ve been in contact with. Even even if your private doctor tests you he/she is obligated to do this and report it to the local health department.

  • Aaron Daszko

    You can wish and want to see those visions you mentioned all you want, but that doesn’t mean remedies will happen anytime faster, if at all. These articles are not written to strike fear in people, they are written to inform people. Think of the numbers not so much as scary, but sobering because it is reality. If this information concerns you in any way, what it should do is compel you to learn more about it, not stick your head in the sand, hoping that a miracle in medical science is going to occur in your lifetime.

  • Aaron Daszko

    You cannot get HSV-1 or 2 from shaking hands; do not confuse this virus with HPV or warts. It is passed from one mucous membrane on to another or a mucous membrane on to any area of skin with an open wound or laceration. You cannot pick up the virus from any surface, like a door knob or phone; it dies from exposure within seconds outside of the body. What the article is saying is that folks who have the genital version of the virus, no matter which strain it is, may or may not show symptoms within 2 days to 2 weeks; these are only “typical” results. Conversely, many people can be asymptomatic for years upon years before they have an outbreak. The article is also pointing out in so many words that if people DO have symptoms, they might not even be noticeable enough to some people at all or the symptoms are mistaken for something else. Point is, there is no way to truly know without getting tested.

    • Brendatheherpesqueen

      Herpes lives up to an hour on a wet clothed surface, like a guest hand towel for inSTANCE. Don’t be spreadin’ nonsense, either way, we’re all animals, just bathe a lot and put on make-up and act like we’re better.

      • Truth

        Yes, herpes lasts more than a few seconds outside the body, but not more than a few hours.

      • T.j. Effum

        If someone got it on a hand towel, they used it for more than their hands….

    • Mark Strange Love

      yes you can get it from casual skin to skin contact. but not likely from a handshake.

      • Aaron D

        That’s fine, I understand that, but you’re basically paraphrasing me. I mentioned that it has to be around a mucous membrane, or any opening into the body.

  • Aaron Daszko

    They’re not saying you should have less sex, they’re saying that you should get tested and ASK for an HSV screening. HSV-1&2, both of them can affect either region, oral and genital; you can have HSV-1 downstairs, HSV-2 upstairs and vice versa. Granted, many, too many of the articles online, written by doctors, clinicians, and any other reputable sources have complacent language that does not point out the behavior of both strains of HSV. So yes, when articles speak of “genital” herpes they’re talking about the location of the skin condition, not which strain it is, because it could be either. The statistics you read about are not supposed to scare folks, they’re supposed to be matter-of-fact and sobering to the point that people need to remember to think first; use condoms, dental dams, and any other barriers to prevent transmission orally and genitally. If you don’t want to use barriers for oral pleasure, a good practice to take up is that oral fun might not want to come around until you’re tested first (because everyone can agree that coitus with condoms is lame enough, oral sex w barriers is just downright “not the same”). Lastly, whether you have it or not- it is just a skin condition, that most people dub as “a minor inconvenience in their lives”. Granted, if you can avoid it, do what you can to ensure that, but if happens that’s life and rest assured- someone, somewhere will still have sex with you regardless.

    • T.j. Effum

      Everything you said is factual. 100%. I think that “Disgruntled” is kind of a conspirator which I am guilty of myself. I also took from the article here that there may possibly be a “be scared to have sex” tone underlying in there.
      With that…we should all be a bit concerned if we aren’t careful in our selection of partners. Even then, just because you move into a nice neighborhood, doesn’t mean your doors shouldn’t be locked.

  • Angry young adult

    I’m only 21, and I was diagnosed with hsv-1. I guess I deserve it cause I knew the guy was a whore, but I thought since I used condoms that I was safe. Guess not. My advice, people were really conservative until the 60s. The fact that we are merely comfortable with casual sex strikes reverence to the 60s when hippies thought there would be no consequences and that it’s ok to do whatever you want. But maybe these morals are put in place for a reason, that there are consequences. Casual sex should be illegal. A trusted friend, your spouse, ok. But not someone who you barely know, you think you’re fine but that one night stand you had in college could actually damage your future. Oh and for the people who think that herpes is no big deal, compared to cancer and AIDS it’s not, but it can be really painful, even with medication. My first outbreak was terrible, and I was hospitalized. My gyn told me that was the worst it would ever be, and I prob won’t even have many outbreaks, but I’ve had two outbreaks since then, the last one there was a huge tumor-like lump in my ass and it was very painful, and it kept leaking pus and blood everywhere. Even with the meds it lasted for two weeks. Am I painting an ugly picture? Good! Because it’s ugly, it’s not like those happy valtrex commercials. Stop sleeping around! We’ve become so shallow, only caring about careers, and money, and only ourselves, that we’ve become narcissistic. You can’t do whatever you want! No matter how much money you make, gender, skin color, the universal factor is that we’re all human.

    • Celestea Deanes

      you are very brave. thanks for this honesty.

  • John Doe

    Not true it only takes one time I only had sexual encounters with 2 women the second women I got oral
    And genital herpes from. It’s about choices and I made a terrible decision there for I have to learn this lesson don’t let anyone tell you that there’s no cure for herpes there is herpes hsv 1 and 2 can be healed

  • lrdae54

    Excellent point, I went for a checkup in 1999 because I shot a roofing nail through my hand, they didn’t test me for Herpes because it would have been stupid on many levels. So, we go back two more dumb accidents, and I get to 1984 as the last time I had a real checkup………I bet there are a ton of other men out there exactly they same. The ONLY time I go to the doctor is when I’ve broke something bad enough that I’m worried I can’t fix it with pliers….

    • Aaron Daszko

      That attitude is what helps spread the virus. If you have casual sex outside of a committed relationship, getting tested is something that needs to be done on at least an annual or even semi-annual basis; just because you have no symptoms, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get tested ever, or don’t have to be [tested]. Certainly hope that you didn’t think you needed an HSV screening because you got a nail in your hand in the first place.

  • lrdae54

    OK, so here’s a thought, if ~60% of unmarried women 45-50 have Herpes 2, and only an unmarried women would bother getting tested, what about married women? They have to start spending some money on this instead of warplanes, warships, bombs and bullets.
    There are a ton of Herpes viruses and many have already been implicated in various cancers. I know that resiquimod works, but it was pulled from the tests immediately when it was obvious it was working……..Google it.

  • Eri Cad

    From what I’m reading here herpes transcends sexual contact only that’s why many of us have already been exposed to the virus and don’t even know it. Its not like people with cold sores are still going to work and the grocery store touching things, people aren’t always washing their hands and it appears the virus can spread that way. There seems to be nothing you can really do.

  • Eri Cad

    I believe it should be included in STD screening you shouldn’t HAVE to ask your doctor to run the test. I think that’s a factor in why so many people don’t know they have herpes and the whole idea of people should be practicing safe sex anyway is absurd because 1. everyone isnt. 2. You can still get herpes practicing safe sex. I think there is a HUGE stigma on something that almost the entire population has been exposed to. Unless you put yourself in a bubble it doesn’t matter if u abstain from sex you can still get some form of the virus.

  • Vova

    Listen up, everybody. I work in sex industry, I perform sensual massages on gay men. I am very sexually active. For the last ten years I had sex with approximately 130 men, I gave massage to over 800 bi and gay men. Massages always include extra service for a fee. I had more sex than anybody else on a planet, though always with a condom. Yes, I finally got herpes 2 this year, but only cause I lost caution and allowed some dangerous behaviors. But it took me 10 years and almost 1000 men( don’t forget repeat customers ) to get it. I continue working as usual and no one got anything from me. Herpes, as well as other std, is not that easy to get as they want you to think. They all exaggerate the truth to make you abstain from sex. As of now, I got only one outbreak for the last year and it only lasted three days. It looked just regular pimples. Herpes is not a big deal at all. They don’t even test for it, unless you ask them for it.

  • Sapphyreopal5

    The problem with blood testing is that the tests actually have a reputation of being unreliable (a lot of false positives/false negatives). Quite honestly, the best thing you can do is educate yourself and others. The main reason herpes, especially if it is on the genitals, is stigmatized is because of the misconceptions about herpes. Anybody can get it. So what do we do? Go hide in our houses forever and have no interaction with other people for prevention? Never touch or be touched again to not spread it? This article needs to provide a more realistic solution than to suggest avoiding sexual contact and going to get a blood test that has a high rate of unreliability.
    Furthermore, this article failed to mention that a lot of cases for genital herpes is actually HSV-1, particularly in developing countries. Yes, carriers are more vulnerable to contracting HIV or other diseases when there are lesions. Oral herpes is technically more dangerous than genital herpes (due to risk of spreading it to the eyes, possibly causing herpetic eye disease). Furthermore, there are cases of oral herpes that are HSV-2. It’s kind of annoying reading all kinds of “educational” articles failing to acknowledge that fact.

  • http://twitter.com/DarkDahlia DarkDahlia

    whats funny is that most of you probably have herpes given the overall statistics..just because you are careful, doesn’t mean sharing that water bottle was a good idea that one time! Hahaha

    this is a naturally occurring social disease.

    • Aaron Daszko

      You cannot get herpes from sharing beverages, especially cold ones; life spans of the HSV viruses (1 and 2) are fractions of seconds outside of the body that carries it. Both cold and heat, as well as exposure kills it almost instantly. Your tone and attitude are what perpetuates the limited belief some folks harbor that it is “a social right of passage”. It is not and doesn’t have to be.

      • Jctainox

        it is not a social right of passage, but as darkdahlia says, many of those chatting here might have it and doesnt know they do, believe me, there are many silly ways of getting herpes, as someone mentioned before, maybe your first boy/girlfriend in a serious relationship, or maybe the day you lost your virginity at 28 years old.

        it is a gambling thing, in contrast to other diseases this is related to damaged skin lesions or mucosal ones, the interesting part here is that it doesnt have to be a visible ulcer for you to have active contagious focus, there is the chance of having pretty tiny lacerations that transmit the disease the same way, so it is pretty hard to be 100% safe with HSV1/2, not impossible but really hard. more yet because the amount of ppl positive for the disease in the country is huge, that means your mom might have it, or your best friend, or the girl you like, or your sister or brothers (if you have) or even your grandparents… few of them might know it, but others dont. and the virus doesnt die in secs as you say mister Aaron D, it takes few hours to do it, variable constant of time depending on the environmental conditions around the virus out of the body, but within hours for sure.

        the controversial fact is that as herpes virus is so tightly related with sexual intercourse that the pathology has been kind of damned by society and people is stigmatized a lot, because as soon as someone say is infected others usually think it was because of being promiscuous, or having irresponsible unprotected sex with many, instead of it being an accident, get it from someone whom was going serious on you and didnt know he had it, or some other special situation that exposed you before. as anything related with sex is usually taboo, herpes is not the exception, but many of us forget that everybody have sexual thoughts, desires and practice sex inside marriage or out of it, it is part of human behavior, at least that you are one of those not that lucky who cant find a couple who likes or fall in love with them. saying that i think this is more like crossing your fingers about not getting it never or forget about dating people if youre looking for a relationship or even forget about having sex (which reduce the sexual transmission probabilities ofcourse). but if you get it, then just deal with it and keep on moving.

        for example there are many cases of child getting herpes infection by using parents chapsticks or so… the mom dont know, let the child use it, and kaboom!!!, there u have it for the rest of your life since you were a kid. so yeah, it is a pretty bad stuff to deal with, it might not be a critical condition as many others to be more aware and really afraid of, but it must be pretty bothersome to have sores in your genitals or in your mouth few times a year without anything else to do than wait few days or weeks for it to heal.

        I think instead of being looking for medications to control it, public health institutions must focus more into researches for a cure… and pharmacies should stop making a great business out of ppl making them buy life long treatment to keep herpes quiet in their bodies, and look harder for an accurate and full cure to a viral infection that is affecting so many persons, not only here in USA but around the world.

        i think being aware of being infected makes a more responsible and caring attitude towards the general situation, but being herpes-neg and protect yourself isnt a 100% ticket to stay away from the disease. lets hope that the investigation the University of Washington is doing about a genital herpes vaccine brings a cure in the next 3 to 4 years.

        i am young MD and from my point of view exposure is hard to control, if you get infected the most common will be to deal with 2 or 3 outbreaks a year that can be treated with antivirals. the real need is a vaccine to end this up, i bet right now pharmacological community (plus public health) have enough resources to work on it and find the solution.

      • vivian-li

        Actually, you CAN get herpes from sharing beverages. Although it’s true that the virus cannot live on inanimate surfaces longer than a few seconds, if, say, someone with a blistering cold sore contacts the cup on their sore, and you drink from that same spot immediately afterwards, you WILL get infected. Likewise for other personal items such as towels and toothbrushes. The unfortunate truth is, Herpes is very contagious, and it’s best to take as many precautions as possible.

  • someone

    What studies?  My ex-gf of 5 years had hsv-2, we had sex hundreds of times, even unprotected a few times, and she didn’t pass it on to me.  With 50% odds I would have been infected the second time we slept together. 

    • SteveM

      The above poster said “50% risk reduction.” Not “50% risk each time you have sex.” The actual risk per time is obviously lower.

  • Beck983

    I appreciate the article. I was diagnosed with HSV 2 a couple of days ago. I have not been sexually active since 1993, before I was involved with 2 people. I have experienced many medical problems, cancer, neurological, RA, diabetes…others. Years of numerous medical tests, only to find out from a very discerning rheumatologist that herpes may be at play with some of the symptoms I have been experiencing. I do not perceive it be festering fear. I expect now to be stigmatized–but I firmly believe type casting people with STDs will inhibit people from seeking testing or being open with their doctors.

    • Cj Mango

       lol if you havent had sex since 1993 our are not going to have sex again so who is going to stigmatize you , who is going to know lol .

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_43ZEZXGZIHXM5YLDOWHAHFWE4U RussellK

    The annual rate of transmission from an infected partner for herpes is as follows: 3% for woman to man and 8% for man to woman. That is a 97% annual chance that an infected woman won’t give it to a man! Rick from Backroom Casting Couch has had natural sex (no condoms) with hundreds of women and recently posted his STD test results. He has HSV-1 but not HSV-2! How is this possible? Well judging by the above stat you can see that it is harder to transmit HSV-2 than these articles will imply.

    All around I read about “safe sex” and to use condoms. Condoms aren’t natural, they are artificial and a barrier to enjoying sex the way it was intended.  The key is not to generate fear like this article has attempted to do but to work and focus on creating vaccines and cures for all STDs out there. I want to see vaccines that not only eliminates both HSV-1 and 2 but prevents initial and re-infection as well.

  • Disgruntled person

    I can’t believe this……OBVIOUSLY this is all a ploy to try to get people to start having less sex and spend hundreds of dollars to get a blood test that most of the time tells them NOTHING!  I spoke with my doctor about this, I really wanted to get a blood test done because I was so worried about herpes after reading countless articles on the internet about herpes and how SOO MANY people have HSV-2 and don’t know about it.  He said I could get one if I want, but it wouldn’t really be worth it because research is showing more and more that HSV-2 and HSV-1 cross and that if I have had a cold sore around my mouth it could be HSV-2.  What does this mean? It means that just because an ESTIMATED 22% of the population has HSV-2 antibodies in their blood doesn’t mean it is GENITAL HERPES. Of course, I believe the majority of it would be, however, a significant amount could just be oral HSV-2.  AND GOD, OH NO HAVING HERPES INCREASES YOUR CHANCES OF GETTING HIV 2-3 TIMES?!??? OH NOOOO WHAT WILL WE DO?!?!??  Genital herpes has RARELY ever caused any serious health problems.  Because of all this crap people with herpes are often shunned from society and live stressful and depressing lives because of it.  I think more about herpes everyday than I do about things that actually matter, and I have never even had symptoms of it!!  All of this information put out is just another money making scam AND an effort to limit population growth (which needs to be done but I believe there are much better methods than simply scaring people into not having sex).  How about this, just don’t be stupid, use condoms and stop listening to the media.  If you truly want to learn about herpes, read some actual scientific literature on it.  Then you can see ALL of the statistics and not just the scary ones.

  • http://coldsoreremediesinsight.com/tips-on-how-to-get-rid-of-a-cold-sore/ how to get rid of a cold sore

    There are some diseases that can be transmitted sexually. Herpes viruses could one of them. It is really important to be faithful to your partner if you don’t want to have these sexually-transmitted diseases.

  • Anna Jarrett

    The lack of screening tests for herpes in “complete” STD screens, and resulting lack of awareness about one’s condition is a HUGE health threat to our nation. 80% (39 million) of asymptomatic HSV carriers in the U.S. who are unaware they have have HSV pose substantial health threats, to themselves, their intimate partners, and potentially to their future children during childbirth. It has now been proven that asymptomatic HSV carriers shed the virus over 10% of the time; they can and are passing the virus to others unknowingly. Studies show that health consequences include a TWO-to-THREEFOLD risk of acquiring HIV, links to Alzheimer’s, blindness, neonatal herpes, chronic neurological pain, and encephalitis. All are more than good enough reasons to increase HSV screening tests. Another reason to increase HSV screening tests is to protect and prevent those whose bodies respond to an HSV infection by manifestation of lifelong, recurrent, symptomatic infection (20%/9.6 million of those with symptomatic HSV). HSV infection, when paired with other autoimmune diseases, can result in near-nonstop, painful ulcerative lesions that can be difficult to treat. Additionally, routine serological screening tests for HSV would increase reported HSV infections, thereby helping to lessen the negative social stigma associated with this highly common, severely under-diagnosed virus; and assist in reducing high levels of stress/depression/psychological concerns often reported in symptomatic patients. Any patient who feels he/she is at-risk of having contracted an STD, and asks for a complete STD screen, deserves to be administered a serological, type-specific HSV blood test. At minimum, asymptomatic patients should be informed that they’re not being tested for HSV during “complete” exams.

  • http://www.kleendrybh.com Air Duct Cleaning

    I want to thank you for the efforts you have contributed in composing this article.

  • Fensbot

    Although the large numbers are shocking, I have to admit that my impression from this is, so what? When 80% of all people with herpes are undiagnosed, I presume that it’s most likely because they’re asymptomatic, or as near as can be. (I get cold sores on my mouth occasionally, and if an HSV-2 outbreak is like that, it’s unmistakable.) Yes, they can still pass it on to others, but then the germ-recipients also have something like a 4 out of 5 chance of being asymptomatic, right? I guess what I’m saying is: everyone has to make their own decisions about these things, and of course safe sex should always be practiced (because of the other MUCH scarier diseases out there), but ultimately herpes is hardly worth panicking about. Especially considering that there ARE medications to help manage the frequency of outbreaks, which will increase the comfort of those who live with herpes and are prone to outbreaks. So, gross? Yes. But I’ll wager there are millions of waaaay grosser microbes living in all of us too. I’m not going to lose too much sleep over this.

  • http://profiles.google.com/whynotnow1982 Normelyn Sustiguer

    It ‘s quite painfull and itchy….thanks for topical anesthesia with steroid. http://www.herpesphoto.net/

  • AMR

    Indeed–this shouldn’t be a discussion focused around sexual activity. Especially when the report indicates that sex is not required, and that mere skin-on-skin contact is enough.

    That’s just about everyone in the world, unless you have never shaken hands with a stranger, or touched their palm when giving or getting change at the 7-11.

    Add to this the fact that around 80% of people with it are undiagnosed, and it suddenly appears we’re all in trouble here.

    I’m so glad it’s not fatal. And I’m so glad I was just paranoid enough about all of that kind of stuff in college to not have done half of what my more adventurous buddies were doing. Yeesh…

  • Ashleyyoshida

    Yes. Older women like your mother.

  • guesto-san

    I’m a little perturbed at how this is being spinned around sexual activity. What does it matter that older “single” women or *gasp* monogamous/married women are being diagnosed? Anyone who is alive and breathing has had sexual relations with several people before settling with the one, or maybe deciding to never settle down at all. You could get it from the very first sexual encounter or your very last spouse, and maybe they got it from shaking hands with someone else. It’s really hard to tell if there are obvious no symptoms until older age. It’s so ubiquitous that whether it was sexually transmitted in the first place is beside the point.

    That is not to say (before ppl start jumping my throat) that protection against STD’s shouldn’t be used. There are many other STD’s that we still have to worry about. But what this study says is that you can go throughout your whole life being careful and still have an outbreak in your 50′s.

  • Matt

    Practice safe sex, everyone!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_S2XEUJKQLDMYUHO7BJ4NTGFV6M Jason

      You can still contract herpes while wearing a condom. Best studies show it’s only about a 50% risk reduction if you use condoms ALL the time CORRECTLY.

      Good luck.

      • Eclars

        What do you recommend then, artificial insemination?

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_S2XEUJKQLDMYUHO7BJ4NTGFV6M Jason

          The only avoidance to STD’s that I know of are two things:

          1. Being committed to one non-infected partner for the rest of your life or

          2. Two people abstinent until marriage and remaining faithful.

          Outside of that, 1 out of 5 adults in this country have a highly contagious, incurable STD. And you CHOOSE to put yourself at risk. You get the swine flu, tough luck. Outside of terribly tragic issues or rape/sexual abuse, a person puts themselves at risk for getting an STD by engaging in sexual activity.

          But you can’t have it both ways.

          Sex has consequences.

          • JamesDee

            It should be noted that HSV-1 (cold sores) can also be passed to a partner through oral sex while shedding (as detailed within the article), and that particular strain of the virus can be spread from something as innocent as sharing a cup.

            While my aunt was careful when she had a cold sore, my cousin ended up with cold sores as well. You can imagine that she was careful while she had an outbreak, but in the process of taking care of her family, something happened which spread the sore… no premiscuous relationships, no “testing the waters” before marriage, no unprotected sex… HSV-1: Herpies.

  • DeeDee

    The statistics seems shocking but consider the number of women who are not married by that age.

  • o0o0o

    why aren’t blood test common practice? Also, could the number in women be higher because women tend to have check ups more regularly (i.e. ; yearly pap test) so doctor or patient ask for test? how often do men go for check ups?

  • http://www.videosculptures.com Matteo

    so what. As far as I know it can’t kill you.

  • Brandonakes

    big deal. it’s just herpes. some people have serious medical problems.

  • M S Novak

    Messy numbers. Yes, I will continue being careful. Still, what are the public health implications of these numbers?

  • dsv

    Grow up.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_S2XEUJKQLDMYUHO7BJ4NTGFV6M Jason

    Abstinence, b!tc#ez!

    • Myemailforotherstuff007

      there is hope at least after the fact! positivesingles dot com   :)

  • lololalallll

    Dont forget, oral herpes is still herpes. I’ve heard the “oh its just a cold sore” attempt at an excuse… pro tip, cold sores on your mouth is still herpes.

  • http://twitter.com/flframboyan Margaret Keller

    The public really needs to heed this shocking news. I have hardly ever noticed men with herpes 1. It seems women bear “Scarelet H” badge around their mouth more often than men.
    This puts a whole new twist on engaging in sexual activity with a new partner who one might wish to have long term relations. Does that mean condoms forever? More research is needed to know the shedding times etc. This is a troublesome WOW moment.

  • Electra

    Some people will not change their behavior even when they know they are positive. I dated a guy who had oral herpes, and he expected kisses during his break outs. Some people just figure it’s not a big deal for them, so it shouldn’t be a big deal for you, either.

  • Stef_j824

    Wow, wish I had known this earlier! I am even a nurse and didnt realize how easily it was transmitted! Im single now for 6 yrs, 48, and just diagnosed…UGH! NOT what you expect at our age!

    • careyg

      Darn!! Many, many, many people wish they had known this earlier!! At least you know that you don’t just have a lot of company, herpes actually affects the majority of single women in your age range!! I wonder if that could possibly help in a talk with a partner????
      BTW, ASHA has a nice bit on the emotional adjustment to a diagnosis here:
      WIshing you the very best — Carey