What is herpes?
Herpes simplex virus or HSV is a viral infection. The 2 common types are Herpes Simplex 1 (HSV 1) and Herpes Simplex 2 (HSV 2). Herpes 2 is commonly known as genital herpes. While either virus can infect oral or genital skin, a simple way to think of it is this - HSV 1 usually causes cold sores in and around the mouth and HSV 2 is most often found with herpes down below. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that at least 45 million people in the U.S. have genital herpes. And, if you've had a cold sore, you probably have oral herpes. Most of us, around 65% of Americans, do.
Are there herpes symptoms?
Well, not always. Oral herpes can show up as painful cold sores in and around your mouth. Genital herpes symptoms, or herpes 2, can be a "no show" for quite a while. Until it's not. When genital herpes symptoms show up, they can bring on itching and burning down below, painful urination, and blisters on your private parts. Sores and other symptoms of herpes are called "outbreaks". But you can have herpes and not get an outbreak for years after the first infection. Without herpes symptoms that you can feel or see, the only way to know you have herpes is to get tested.
How do you get herpes?
You can get herpes from skin to skin contact, oral, vaginal, and anal sex. The easiest way for herpes to spread is when there is an open, active sore. But you can still get herpes when there's no outbreak at all. We'll say that again. You can get herpes even when your partner is not having symptoms or showing any open sores.
So, how can herpes be prevented? While unpopular, not having sex at all is the only way to be 100% safe from STDs. But if you're sexually active, latex condoms help drop the risk of transmission. Studies show that when a partner has herpes and takes an oral antiviral medication daily, the risk of transmitting the virus is reduced by nearly 50%.
How do I get tested for herpes 1 and 2?
We offer a trusted, type-specific blood test. That means it can differentiate between herpes 1 and herpes 2. The test checks for antibodies that develop in the blood to fight the infection. One quick blood draw is taken by our trained staff and you'll be on your way.
What else should I know about herpes testing?
The window period for herpes antibodies to develop after infection can be anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months. In the early stage of infection, antibodies may not reach detectable levels. This can vary from person to person. So, for this reason, it is possible to get a false-negative result. If you believe you have been infected, test 2 weeks after exposure, then retest 3 months later to confirm your status. There is also a very small chance of a false-positive results. If you believe that your risk for herpes is very low, it is recommended to have another test done at a later date to confirm the results.
When your results are ready, we will put you in touch with a physician on the phone... at no extra cost. Depending on your situation, he or she will advise you on next steps and, if necessary, prescribe treatment.
What if I have herpes but don't know it?
You wouldn't be alone. About 1 million new genital herpes cases are reported every year in the U.S. Millions more are likely unreported because people don't know they have the virus. This is why it is very important to wear condoms each and every time you have sexual intercourse or oral sex. And while condoms are the best protection, they are not 100% effective. Get tested for herpes to know for sure.
What if I'm pregnant?
The risk of the baby contracting herpes is at the highest if you got infected during pregnancy. If you or someone you know has herpes outbreaks during pregnancy, your health care provider may consider using prescription medication for treatment. Please seek medical care and discuss options with a health care provider if you or someone you know has herpes and is pregnant.