The transmission of herpes is something people often wonder about. And it’s no surprise because the infection is quite common these days.
According to the CDC, genital herpes is the second most prevalent STD in the US with 1 in 6 adults affected. That’s a huge statistic!
Most people with herpes are asymptomatic, meaning they never experience outbreaks at all.
But the absence of outbreaks (visible herpes sores) does not mean a person is not contagious. In fact, there is still a chance of herpes transmission due to viral shedding.
So it’s important to know how herpes is transmitted from one person to another. That way you can help protect your health and the health of others.
Herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus. This tiny enveloped virus has two types: Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV 1) which causes Oral Herpes or Cold Sores, and Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV 2) which causes Genital Herpes.
Transmission of herpes happens when a person has direct skin-to-skin contact with one who has herpes. This means the virus can be acquired by touching the open herpes sores (such as in Herpes Whitlow and Ocular Herpes), by kissing, or by engaging in sexual activity like oral, vaginal, and anal sex.
One juicy peck from a herpes-positive person can be enough to transfer the virus. This is probably the main reason why most people acquire cold sores during childhood, since it can be spread from one child to another, or from a parent / family member to a child.
HSV-1 prefers the oral region while HSV 2 thrives around the genital area. However, oral-genital (or genital-oral) transmission is still possible especially when giving / receiving oral herpes sex.
The thing about herpes is that it doesn't discriminate. It is no respecter of persons. Whether you’re young or old, rich or poor, have multiple sexual partners or not... there is an equal chance of acquiring the virus.
So anytime you engage in intimate contact with a herpes positive partner (even with someone who has never experienced an outbreak), you can get the virus.
Most men and women with herpes don’t display the classic signs of a herpes outbreak, and thus aren't aware that they harbor the virus. This unfortunately makes it easy for them to unknowingly transmit the virus to their sexual partner.
Symptoms of herpes can start out as a tingly sensation that “crawls” over your oral / genital area, or a prickly sensation like a pinch. It can last anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks or more, depending on your body’s reaction to the virus.
Then the painful sores will begin to appear which can bleed or be filled with pus. They go away on their own after 2-3 weeks but the use of herpes medications can speed up the healing process.
Stress, fever, sun exposure, and an unhealthy lifestyle seem to be the worst culprits that can trigger herpes outbreaks. So make sure you stick with a healthy diet, get lots of rest, and get enough exercise for a strong immune system that can fight off the virus.
If you have been diagnosed with herpes and are dating someone, you might be worried about transmission of herpes.
Here are some steps to reduce transmission of herpes:
There may be long periods of time when you won’t be experiencing any symptoms or outbreaks, but that doesn't mean you can’t pass the virus to another person.
Best is to talk with your doctor or healthcare expert about how you can have fewer future outbreaks to prevent unknowingly transmitting the virus to another.
Remember that in some individuals, the herpes virus stays in a “sleeping” or dormant stage and do not manifest into the typical signs and symptoms. Even though a large percentage of the human population carry the herpes simplex virus, only 10-15% of people exhibit the disease.
Consequently, this makes it difficult to determine whether your sexual partner is asymptomatic and unaware that they have the virus, or simply in denial and just can’t be honest with you about it.
As always, precaution is better than cure... any risky sexual behavior will always have consequences in the end.
If you are currently dating someone with herpes, then you might probably be worried about transmission of herpes. But trust me; you can still have a great sex life ahead!
Here are some ways to reduce the risk of acquiring the infection:
I've known a lot of people who have been dating non-positive partners for years without transmitting the infection. Indeed, having a healthy relationship and great genital herpes sex life is still possible!
If you are suspicious of any signs or symptoms on your body or on your partner/s, seek medical advice right away. Talk frankly with your doctor and don't be embarrassed about asking advice on your situation.
Speak with your sexual partner/s about any STIs they have or have had. Be open about using condoms. After all, it is your body. It is up to you to make sure you're protected.
Practicing safe sex is probably the best first line of defense anyone can have as far as transmission of herpes is concerned. Doing your research and being knowledgeable about the herpes virus comes a close second.
If you want to know more about what it is like living with herpes from someone who has been living with the virus for 2 decades, check out my Ultimate Herpes Survival Guide. This eBook is packed with practical tips and advice on how to deal with herpes, all accumulated from my personal experience with the virus over the years.
Remember, herpes may be a life-long disease—but it is surely no deal breaker in any relationship, or showstopper for any person wanting to live their life to the fullest.
If I was able to cope with my herpes, so can you! Hang in there...