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How Did I Get Herpes?

Herpes Transmission: How Did I Get Herpes?

If you are brand new to this site, your number one question might be “How Did I Get Herpes?” Herpes is much more common than you think – and most adults already have some form of herpes and just don’t know it.  The Herpes Virus is transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact – such as kissing, oral sex, genital sex, or anal sex.  HSV-1 and HSV-2 are the most common causes of genital herpes.

HSV-1, Cold Sores, Oral Sex and Genital Herpes

60-80% of Americans over age 12 have HSV-1 – a strain of herpes best known for causing occasional”cold sores” around the mouth.  But HSV-1 is also a leading cause of new cases of genital herpes.  Most people acquire the HSV-1 virus as children – via being kissed by family or friends – who didn’t have visible cold sores at the time and didn’t realize that they could spread anything.  Even if you have HSV-1, you may or may not have ever displayed noticeable symptoms like cold sores.  So most people don’t even know that they havs HSV-1 and can possibly spread it without having symptoms.

HSV-1 is now the cause of over 50% of new genital herpes infections in the United States.  The rise in the number of cases of genital HSV-1 can be linked to the popularity of oral sex, for which most people do not use protection.  It can be spread from one partner to another even when there are NO noticeable symptoms on the part of either partner. Since many people engage in oral sex without the use of condoms or dental dams, getting genital herpes from oral sex is increasingly common.

HSV-2, Genital Herpes, Genital Sex and Anal Sex

Over 16% of Americans ages 12-49 have an almost identical virus – HSV-2 – which can cause both genital herpes and oral herpes (less common). HSV-2 is most often spread by genital or anal sex, but can also occur via skin to skin contact in nearby areas.  60-80% of Americans carry HSV-1, and over 50 million Americans carry HSV-2.  If you live in the US, chances are very high that in your lifetime, you will contract either one or both HSV-1 and/or HSV-2.  And either of these can cause genital herpes – with or without any noticeable symptoms.

Herpes Is Most Often Spread When Someone Has No Noticeable Symptoms: Asymptomatic Shedding of the Herpes Virus

Any form of Herpes can be transmitted from one person to another, even when there are NO VISIBLE SYMPTOMS – no sores, no noticeable anything.  This is called “Asymptomatic Shedding.”  It means that there may be microscopic tears or fisions on the skin’s surface where the HSV virus can be present and can spread to another person, even when the person feels completely fine and is not aware of any symptoms.

Most people with genital herpes shed the virus asymptomatically a small percent of the time – and how often varies between different people.  Usually, the longer someone has had the herpes virus, the less frequent their symptoms and the less frequent their asymptomatic shedding. Bur each person’s situation is different and you cannot know for sure if or how often you are asymptomatically shedding the herpes virus unless you are part of a medical research study that tests you on a regular basis.  Since most people cannot participate in a medical research study, you have to learn as much as possible about what’s known about the herpes virus as of this point in time, so that you can reduce or eliminate your own symptoms and better protect your partners.

Herpes is very manageable and if you use recommended precautions, you can greatly reduce your chances of spreading it to your partner.  Unfortunately, MOST people who have genital herpes, DON’T EVEN KNOW IT, and are therefore not knowledgeable about the virus or how to manage it or how reduce the risk of spreading it.   If YOU are reading the information on this website, then YOU are someone who can become knowledgeable about the herpes virus and learn how to manage it and learn how not to get herpes and/or learn how not to spread herpes.

80-90% of people with herpes don’t even know it – because  have NOT been properly tested or diagnosed, and most people have few or no symptoms, or their symptoms are mistaken for something else.  For this reason, most people with herpes are totally UNAWARE that they have it, and may be having unprotected sex and spreading the virus to their partners without knowing it, through asymptomatic shedding.

Many Doctors are Out-of-Date and Give Bad Information to Patients

Also, many “out of date” doctors tell their patients with herpes that they cannot spread herpes to their partners when they are not having any symptoms.  This is BAD, OUT-OF-DATE INFORMATION, and is NOT TRUE!  More recent research shows without a doubt that herpes CAN be transmitted to your partners even when you have NO NOTICEABLE SYMPTOMS.  If your doctor tells you that you don’t have to worry about spreading or getting genital herpes when you or your partners are not having any symptoms, get yourself another doctor!   They are way out of date.

Unfortunately, MOST new cases of genital herpes are the result of sleeping with someone who had genital or oral herpes, but did not have any noticeable symptoms at the time.  Because so many people have herpes or other STD’s but DON’T EVEN KNOW IT, it is important to always use condoms an/or dental dams.  Even using condoms and dental dams does not always protect against genital herpes if a person is shedding the virus from a place that is not covered by the product.  Still, condoms and dental dams are generally your best protection.

Your Partner May Honestly Not Know That They Have Herpes

Many people who are diagnosed with genital herpes for the first time assume – often incorrectly – that they got herpes from their most recent partner.  If they are in a relationship for a long time and then one day get herpes symptoms, they may assume – again often incorrectly – that their partner cheated on them.   However, it is often the case that they got herpes from a previous partner, but just didn’t have any noticeable symptoms until much later.  Because everyone’s body and immune system is different, some people with herpes NEVER have noticeable symptoms, while other people may have occasional or regular outbreaks.  So it’s extremely common for people to have herpes – but not even know it.

You May Have Herpes For Years and Not Know It

It is possible to have herpes for a very long time – even years – before you have a noticeable outbreak. The recent outbreak may have been brought on by stress or other factors that lowered your immune system and triggered your outbreak. The only way to know for sure whether you got herpes recently – or sometime in the past – is by getting one of the “good” herpes blood tests and a herpes lab culture  from your outbreak as soon as you have symptoms.  If the culture is positive for HSV2, but the blood test is negative for HSV-2, then the infection is new.  If the blood test is positive for HSV2 antibodies, then you probably acquired the virus in the past.    Make sure that your partner gets a herpes blood test at the same time.   You never know – it might even show that they don’t have herpes at all.  It’s important for both partners to get tested so that you both know your herpes status and how careful you need to be when having sex.

Since MOST doctors still do NOT include a herpes blood test when testing their patients for other STD’s, up to 90% of people who have herpes still don’t even know it!  And even many of the people who DO know that they have herpes were told by their out-of-date doctors that they could not spread herpes unless they were having a noticeable outbreak.  So they mistakenly think they are “safe” and may not feel a need to disclose something that they were erroneously told is not possible to spread.

Millions of People Have Herpes And Don’t Know It

The bottom line is that Herpes is very common and millions of people have it and don’t even know it.  Most people with herpes honestly believe that they are “clean” when in fact, they are not.  Unless you and your partner are both virgins before you have sex, and remain 100% monogamous, you are at risk for acquiring STD’s. And unless nobody ever kissed you as a child, you are very likely to already have HSV1 and may inadvertantly spread it to someone else via oral sex.

Best Practice:  Always get tested for herpes and other STDs between partners.  Always ask your doctor specifically to give you a herpes blood test.  Always ask your partners to do the same. And always used condoms and/or dental dams for extra protection unless you simply don’t care about getting or spreading STD’s.  Know that some STD tests, such as the Herpes Blood Test, need 12-16 weeks AFTER exposure to show whether or not you may have gotten the virus from a previous partner.