Category Archives: Herpes Facts

Can I Spread Herpes to My Family?

There are two types of Herpes Simplex viruses, HSV–1 that causes oral herpes and HSV-2 which causes genital herpes, a common sexually transmitted disease (STD). While it is true that there is currently no cure for herpes, there are also many myths, misconceptions, and frequently asked questions (FAQs) about herpes transmission. A question that keeps popping up is, “Can I spread herpes to my family?”.

Here, you’ll to get answers to common questions on herpes transmission in the family and herpes precautions you can take to avoid spreading the disease.

Can I Spread Herpes to My Family?
Photo credit: Anna Pruzhevskaya

What is Herpes?

Herpes is a highly contagious viral infection that causes oral and genital herpes. The body cannot get rid of it once the infection occurs. The initial outbreak is usually the worst leading to itchy, painful cold sores or fever blisters at the site where the virus entered the body. Other symptoms are fever, headaches, chills, and swollen glands. The sores usually dry and scab on their own and disappear within days. But it doesn’t mean that the virus is gone.

Who Can Get Herpes?

Anyone can get infected with herpes including your family members. This is because it could take mere skin-to-skin contact with an infected body part to contract the infection. In fact, most people who contracted the disease don’t even know they have it and can share it without knowing it.

Can I spread herpes to my family when I don’t have sores?

Yes. The virus is actually rather sneaky as it can hide in the nerve cells and remain there for years without causing an outbreak. In other cases, it may be more active or cause multiple breakouts a year. Unlike what some people think, the virus can also transmit even when there is no herpes sores, fever blisters, or other symptoms present. All it takes is contact with infected skin, saliva, mucous membranes, or other fluids.

Can I pass herpes to my child by kissing?

Yes. Many people think that it’s impossible to pass oral herpes to their child from kissing because it does not involve the exchange of saliva as is the case between French kissing adults. However, most people got oral herpes as a child by simply getting a non-sexual kiss or peck on the lips by an infected family member, relative, or friend. Furthermore, the herpes simplex virus is highly contagious and cold sores or blisters are not always present when the virus reactivates. This means you can still give the virus to your child or anyone else from skin-to-skin contact with the lips or mouth.

Can I spread herpes to my family from indirect contact?

Some people fear they’ll catch herpes from toilet seats, bath towels, eating utensils, or even a swimming pool used by someone who has HSV 1 or 2. The herpes virus is not typically passed from indirect contact, except when the virus is still alive outside the body. For instance, sharing your lip balm with your spouse or child can spread this viral infection. However, the virus dies quickly outside of the body making it nearly impossible to transmit this way. It is also not usual for you to get or give herpes from non-sexual acts such as hugging or holding family members.

Can I give genital herpes to my child?

Yes, even though genital herpes is usually transmitted through direct sexual contact with the vagina, anus, buttock, thighs, penis, or scrotum of an infected person. Although rare, you can spread genital herpes to your child during pregnancy or delivery or if you touch an infected area of your genitals and then touch your child’s genitals, e.g., when doing a diaper change, before washing your hands.

Can I give my family oral herpes from genital herpes?

The herpes virus can also transmit from the genitals to the mouth and cause oral herpes. For example, if you touch your genitals and then touch your child’s or another family member’s mouth with a hand that has the live virus. This is called genital HSV-1 transmission. You can also spread it to other parts of your or their body the same way, e.g., touching the eyes.

Herpes Precautions to Prevent Transmission

Taking the following herpes precautions may help keep your family members safe from both herpes 1 and 2:

  • Avoid touching herpes sores, infected skin, saliva, or mucous membranes, e.g., the mouth.
  • Do not share unwashed eating/drinking utensils with family members.
  • Always wash your hands before touching or caring for family members.
  • Don’t kiss or peck anyone, especially babies, infants, children, or other family members.
  • Take your herpes medication as prescribed to lower the chance of spreading herpes.
  • Do not share your razor, lipstick, or lip balm with others.

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6 HSV-1 Transmission Facts You Should Know

The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is a common virus that infects most people in the United States by age 20 and causes oral herpes. But mouth herpes can also develop from infection by the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). However, 80% of oral herpes infection is caused by herpes-1 and can occur through non-sexual and sexual contact. Due to the high HSV-1 transmission rates, it is important for you to know how the virus passes from one person to another and other HSV-1 transmission facts.

What is HSV-1?

HSV-1 is a highly contagious virus that mainly causes oral herpes or mouth herpes. It is transmitted through saliva or infected skin and can affect the mouth, gums, lips, throat, or inside the cheeks. When this happens, painful blisters called fever blisters or cold cores develop. The initial infection causes an outbreak of cold sores and symptoms such as fever and muscle aches. The virus then goes to sleep or becomes inactive.

At this stage, HSV-1 is still present in the body but is asymptomatic. Nevertheless, the virus can reactivate thus increasing the risk of transmission. Herpes-1 is more commonly found in females than in males. This may be an indication that the female to male HSV-1 transmission rate is higher than male to female.

6 Important HSV-1 Transmission Facts

HSV-1 Transmission Facts

These 6 HSV-1 transmission facts will bust some of the myths surrounding the virus, how it is transmitted, and who can be infected. They can also help you take precautionary steps to avoid getting the virus or passing it on to others.

Fact #1: The Virus Can Infect Anyone

Anyone can become infected with the herpes simplex virus 1. This includes infants and children. Similarly, anyone can transmit the virus which is most contagious during an outbreak, especially when the sores are wet or open. However, transmission can occur even when the sores are dried or scabbing. The virus can pass through kissing or skin-to-skin contact. For example, a parent can infect their infant or child from kissing them or the cheek or lips. Sharing silverware, lip balm, or razors are other ways the virus can pass.

Fact #2: The Virus is Commonly Passed Through Kissing

When it comes to HSV-1 transmission rates, it is believed that most people contract the virus from kissing. This includes lip kissing or deep kissing (French kiss) which involves the exchange of saliva. Most adults who have the virus caught it while they were kids. It is possible that they got it from someone who didn’t know they were infected and innocently passed it on. This can easily happen because the virus goes dormant and can stay in the body for years without causing a breakout.

Fact #3: HSV-1 Can Transmit When No Symptoms are Present

Many people think that someone who has HSV-1 oral herpes can pass it to others only if sores are present on or in the mouth. When the virus goes to sleep in the body, it remains there until something, e.g., emotional or physical stress, triggers it causing an outbreak of blisters or sores. Although the virus is highly contagious during an outbreak, it can still pass to someone else when there are no visible symptoms.

Fact #4: HSV-1 Also Causes Genital Herpes

Genital HSV-1 transmission is possible and can occur through mouth-to-genital contact such as during oral sex. But the virus can be transmitted from mere skin-to-skin contact with the genitals. Similarly, HSV-2 or genital herpes can infect the mouth during oral sex. A 6-year study from 1994-1999 found a growing trend of genital HSV-1 transmission. It also found that genital HSV-1 transmission was higher in women than in men. The risk of mouth-to-genital transmission may be higher if the infected person has herpes sore on or in the mouth during the time of oral contact with the penis, vagina, anus, buttock, or inner thighs.

Fact #5: Most People Who Have the Virus Don’t Know It

Most people with herpes do not know they have it. This is regardless whether the HSV-1 virus infected the mouth or the genitals. The reason for this is the herpes-1 virus is quite sneaky. For one, it can be transmitted even when the virus is inactive and no sores are present. Furthermore, the virus can wake up (reactivate) and cause no symptoms. Therefore, a person is still at risk of catching or transmitting the infection from kissing, oral sex, or skin-to-skin contact.

Fact #6: There is No Cure Once the Virus is Transmitted

HSV-1 causes a lifelong infection once it is transmitted. There is currently no known cure for the infection. It will continue to live in the nerves even without causing any symptoms. However, it can be treated with antiviral medication during flare-ups. Antiviral drugs are also available to suppress the virus to help reduce the number of breakouts and overall HSV-1 transmission rate.


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Conclusion

It can be challenging to lower the HSV-1 transmission rate, especially since this viral infection can be transmitted from people who do not know they have it and when the virus is inactive. However, getting tested along with your partner prior to kissing or engaging in oral sex may be one of the most effective ways of avoiding the infection. Using a condom can help prevent the virus from passing during oral sex. However, unprotected genital areas such as the anus, buttock, or testicles can still get infected.

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7 HSV-2 Transmission Facts You Should Know

The herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) is a very common sexually transmitted disease but most people don’t know they have it. It is one of two herpes viruses that can cause genital herpes, but genital herpes is most commonly caused by HSV-2. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 417 million people between 15 – 49 years of age have HSV-2. The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that 11.9% of Americans between 14 – 49 have HSV-2. This jumps to 12.1% when adjusted for age. This article explores and explains some HSV-2 transmission facts.

Basic information about the virus

Before exploring some HSV-2 transmission facts, it’s important to understand some basic information about the virus. HSV-2 is often asymptomatic. When a person is experiencing symptoms, this is called an outbreak. Those symptoms include burning when urinating, pain around genital areas, and blisters on genitals that turn into sores. While there is no cure for HSV-2, the virus can be managed with antivirals, which helps with the probability of transmission along with safe sex practices.

The first outbreak is usually the most severe. An outbreak can last 2 to 4 weeks. After the initial outbreak, recurring episodes are usually shorter and less painful. A person may also experience flu-like symptoms during the first outbreak. Symptoms may include fever, headache, chills, and swollen glands in the pelvic area and underarms.

The below outlines some ways HSV 2 is and is not transmitted.

7 HSV-2 Transmission Facts

HSV-2 Transmission Facts

Fact #1: It is spread by skin to skin contact

Some areas of the body have mucous membranes where mucous is secreted. These areas include the mouth, anus, and vagina. When a person with HSV-2 infected area(s) comes into contact with an uninfected person’s mucous membranes or an open area on the skin, HSV-2 can be transmitted.

Fact #2: HSV-2 is unlikely to be transmitted outside of the body

The HSV-2 virus has a very short life outside of the body. As a result, it is highly unlikely to get HSV-2 from using a towel of an infected person or using the same toilet as an infected person.

Fact #3: It can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and childbirth, although it’s rare

A mother who has an outbreak with visible herpes lesions during the birth of a baby can pass the virus on to the child through a vaginal delivery. There may be a recommendation for a cesarean section if lesions are present at the time of birth. Although very rare, it is also possible for a baby to contract HSV-2 while in the uterus.

A more likely way of transmitting HSV-2 from mother to child is if the mother contracted HSV-2 during her third trimester. The risk of a mother transmitting HSV-2 to her baby is greater in women who have their first or primary outbreak during pregnancy than a woman who had HSV-2 prior to pregnancy and experiences a recurrence during pregnancy.

Fact #4: HSV-2 can be transmitted through oral sex

As noted above, the mouth contains mucous membranes. Although it is rare to contract HSV-2 via oral sex, it is still possible. If a non-infected person’s mouth comes into contact with a person’s infected genital area, HSV-2 can be passed orally. Conversely, a person who has an oral HSV-2 can pass the infection to an uninfected person via oral sex.

Fact #5: It can be spread when no symptoms are apparent

Some may be under the impression that if symptoms are not present, HSV-2 cannot be spread. However, HSV-2 is a latent disease. It lies dormant for long periods of time but is still present in the body. While the risk of transmission is greatest during outbreaks, the disease can still be spread when a person does not have physical symptoms.

Fact #6: Transmission is a greater risk for those with compromised immune systems

Naturally, when the immune system, the body’s defense system, is compromised, there is a greater probability of contracting HSV-2. When a person has HIV, AIDS, lupus and other auto-immune diseases, HSV-2 is more of a risk. In addition, those undergoing chemotherapy also have a higher risk because their immune systems are weakened by their treatments.

Fact #7: HSV-2 is more easily transmitted to women

According to the CDC’s latest statistics, the rate of HSV-2 for Americans is almost twice as great for women than men between the ages of 14 – 49. The reason is just the natural way female and male bodies function and interact. Transmission is easier from a man to a woman.

HSV-2 is a common STD that can be transmitted in a number of ways. It is best to be educated on the causes to help with prevention or management of the virus.

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