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Top 10 Herpes Questions

This page gives straight-forward answers to many of the top several questions asked by the clients using www.herpes.org. These questions will be kept as current as new information surfaces and clients’ needs change. External sites mentioned will open in a new window.

WE NEVER EVER POST LETTERS SENT TO US BY OUR CLIENTS. THE LETTERS THAT FOLLOW ARE SUMMARY QUESTIONS OF SOME OF THE MANY THOUSANDS OF QUESTIONS THAT HAVE BEEN SENT TO US OVER THE YEARS.

    1. Where can I just read up and learn about herpes?
    2. I have herpes and my new partner doesn’t. How do I talk to my partner about it? I’m worried that my partner will be upset?
    3. I do NOT have herpes but my new partner does. What do I need to know and do?
    4. I have herpes but my new partner does not. What do I need to know and do to keep from infecting my partner?
    5. What is the latest status on vaccines for herpes?
    6. I have herpes type I and my partner has herpes type II. What’s the difference? Could we each give our own type to the other? How safe is oral sex, etc? And what is “Auto-innocuation” and “asymptomatic shedding”?
    7. I live in a non-sexual relationship with someone who has herpes. Am I at risk of catching herpes from the swimming pool – hot tub – toilet seat – shared towel – etc?
    8. Can I have children if I have herpes?
    9. Please describe the medications available. Do I need to take them all the time or just when I get an outbreak?
    10. What do you think about the recent vaccine study that was published in JAMA?
    11. **BONUS** Do I need to take my medication all the time or just when I get an outbreak?

1. Q. Where can I just read up and learn about herpes?

A: Dr. H. has written a summary of the different types:

2. Q. I have herpes and my new partner doesn’t. How do I talk to my partner about it? I’m worried that my partner will be upset?

A. There is no set answer for this. It is best to read some of the different approaches recommended, and maybe get some advice in one of the Chat Rooms. Here are some suggestions provided by different organizations.

  • Dr. H.’s Advice
  • The Herpes Resource Center
  • Terri Warren’s pamphlet, mentioned in the first question above, also has an excellent discussion on this subject.

3. Q. I do NOT have herpes but my new partner does. What do I need to know and do?

A. You should know up front that although transmission of herpes is very unlikely unless there is actual close physical contact of a sexual nature, however the use of condoms and spermicides is NOT 100% effective in prevention, although they have been reported to reduce the risk. There are many cases where one person has herpes and never gives it to the intimate partner even though they are having regular unprotected sex – there are also many cases where herpes was transmitted during the first sexual encounter when there was not an outbreak in progress. Remember that herpes CAN be transmitted even when the infected partner is not having symptoms.

  • Dr H.’s Advice
  •  Herpes Resource Center comments.

4. Q. I have herpes but my new partner does not. What do I need to know and do to keep from infecting my partner?

A. I would suggest that you start the process by locating your previous medical records to find out what type of herpes it is that you have in your genital tract. Presumably it is type 2, but it might not be. In some countries, type 1 herpes simplex causes herpes in as much as thirty percent of cases. The best information to have would be a previous viral culture that revealed what type virus that causes your infection. Standard office blood work may not be type specific and thus would not be the best information. If it is, in fact, herpes simplex type 2 that causes your infection, then my suggestion is that you ask your partner to have the POCkit blood test for type 2 herpes simplex performed in the physician’s office. This test is not available for type 1 herpes simplex, plus the majority of people are infected with type 1 already in the oral area. If your partner is negative, then repeat the test in about three months. If it remains negative, then your partner almost certainly is not infected with type 2 HSV. The test is not one hundred percent accurate, but it is close enough to give you good information. If your partner develops symptoms, of course, then ask your partner to consult a dermatologist or urologist for a viral culture of one of the lesions for herpes simplex virus.

5. Q. What is the latest status on vaccines for herpes?

A. Work is in progress on vaccines for both genital herpes and HPV, but they are a few years off. The drug companies release occasional updates on the progress they are making, but a “cure” is not around the corner, unfortunately. herpes.Org Board member Terri Warren is deeply involved in clinical studies and research. However, you should not hang your hat on one being released just yet. You should focus on the “Smart Living” approach for managing herpes which is posted elsewhere on this site. Now that I’ve said that, here are some links to information about herpes vaccines:
• Dr. H.’s paper on vaccines
• CenterWatch (look for herpes in the list)

6. Q. I have herpes type I and my partner has herpes type II. What’s the difference? Could we each give our own type to the other? How safe is oral sex, etc? And what is “Auto-innocuation” and “asymptomatic shedding”?

A. Dr. H. has written a paper about the different types of herpes here. The other questions are covered in his treatments paper.

7. Q. I live in a non-sexual relationship with someone who has herpes. Am I at risk of catching herpes from the swimming pool – hot tub – toilet seat – shared towel – etc?

A. This chance of contracting a herpes infection when living in a non-sexual relationship with a person with genital herpes (or oral herpes for that matter) is vanishingly small. The herpes virus has to actually enter the body of another person through a broken area of the skin. The virus will not enter through intact skin. So, touching the blister fluid from a herpes infection with the tip of a finger would not transmit the infection directly to the finger, for example. On the other hand, if the finger that had touched the blister fluid was then used to scratch an itch on the eyelid before being washed with soap and water, for example, the infection could, in fact, be transmitted to the eyelid, and possibly into the eye, if the person scratched hard enough to create a tiny, microscopic tear in the skin.

The chlorine that is in pools, hot tubs, and shower water kills virus. Soap of course instantly kills virus. One can find occasional reports of people who claim that they have contracted herpes from a hot tub. But, such a case must be extremely rare. Cases of facial herpes have been reported to have been transmitted during rugby playing, presumably because of an infected player transmitting it to other players.

The infected person should be encouraged to use good sense and to not place others at risk when symptoms are obvious. Infected persons should understand their responsibility to clean infected areas on their bodies well with soap and water and to refrain from contacting common household areas with the infected part of their bodies when active infection is present. At a time when they have an active infection on the genitalia, if they were to sit on a toilet seat that is used by others, it would be common courtesy to clean the toilet seat after use with either alcohol or soap and water on a clean cloth and then set the cloth aside to be laundered in a hot wash. return to top ten

8. Q. Can I have children if I have herpes?

A. The answer is yes. There are two issues associated with pregnancy and birth. One is the issue of transmitting herpes to the baby if the mother is having an outbreak during the birth. Doctors are very used to dealing with this situation, as long as they know about it. Sometimes it necessitates having a C-section instead of normal labor.

The second issue is a little more complex, and it concerns a mother who actually gets infected with herpes during the pregnancy. This specific situation is much more serious and actually entails the predominant number of infants who do badly due to exposure to herpes virus during pregnancy. See the new paper by Dr. H. regarding Herpes in Pregnancy. You may also read what the Herpes Resource Center has to say about the subject as well.

Generally, raising children if you have herpes is not a problem. It is wise to use appropriate precautions while you are having outbreaks. Read the section on non-sexual transmission of herpes for more guidelines on this, discussed at Dr. H.’s “Smart Living” paper elsewhere on this site. return to top ten

9. Q. Please describe the medications available. Do I need to take them all the time or just when I get an outbreak?

A. We have a paper specifically about the different medications that are used for treating genital (and oral) herpes. Read Dr. H.’s Treatments paper which has an in-depth discussion of this information. return to top ten

10. Q. What do you think about the recent vaccine study that was published in JAMA?

A. SmithKline Beecham recently announced their results of a study on a new vaccine for the herpes simplex virus. They found that only females benefitted from the vaccine, and only those females benefitted who had not had a previous outbreak of both ORAL and GENITAL herpes. Thus, the population of patients that really benefitted was quite small, around 5%. The protection seems similar to that offered by a previous history of an oral herpes infection, which has been quoted to be as high as 40% protection {personal communication}. return to top ten

11. Q. Do I need to take my medication all the time or just when I get an outbreak?

A. We have a paper specifically about the different medications, both prescription and non-prescription, and how to take them. Read Dr. H.’s Treatments paper which has a comprehensive discussion on this subject. return to top ten

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Comments

Educated
Reply

“At a time when they have an active infection on the genitalia, if they were to sit on a toilet seat that is used by others, it would be common courtesy to clean the toilet seat after use with either alcohol or soap and water on a clean cloth and then set the cloth aside to be laundered in a hot wash” this is just WAY over the top and should be omitted. If tranmission can occur from a toilet seat then there would be AMPLE cases of HSV2. Who doesn’t use public restrooms?

Here’s a good example lets go to Dodger Stadium on game day. The capacity of the stadium is 56,000 people (we’ll minus the kids) lets say 15000 are kids so that leave us with 41,000 people. Statiscally, 6,560 (16 percent of these people have HSV2 that’s on the low side) and then lets just break it down to females since the “sit” while urinate. So we’ll have HALF are women that’s 3280 HSV2 positive women at Dodger Stadium. Everyone uses the bathroom at least once during a game, they’re drinking to keep well hydraed on a hot day. IF TRANSMISSION truly came for toilet seats you would hear about far more cases of infections in women and children. This statement about cleaning the toilet after use is ridiculous and you are making people more afraid of a disease that isn’t that easily passed In addition, this is just one baseball stadium there are 35 more stadiums in use on any given day that have 35000+ capacity. In addition, think about chain stores like Walmart, how many people of all walks of life pass in and out of Walmart and use the restroom. I HIGHLY DOUBT any one with HSV2 is using the restroom in Walmart and then cleaning it for the protection of others. If this is truly a possiblity of transmission then this should be considered an STD or STI it should just be a disease you unknowingly get, like a cold. I am appauled and offended by the information here and I don’t even have herpes!!!

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