If you or someone you care about is concerned that they may have herpes, then you know that it can be a very worrisome time with a long list of questions. What makes it even more difficult is that you might be hearing conflicting and confusing information.
Several types of Herpes
What makes it more confusing is that there are several Herpes Simples Viruses (HSV), including the type that causes Chickenpox and Shingles.
- Type 1 HSV – Usually found on the mouth or nose, may cause genital symptoms if there has been oral -genital contact. People who have Type 1 HSV on their genitals usually only have outbreaks every 5-10 years. People with Type 1 can have outbreaks on their mouth, nose or genitals, and less commonly on other parts of the body
- Type 2 HSV – Usually found on the genitals, this rarely occurs around the mouth or nose. People with HSV 2 may have genital outbreaks every 1-6 months. The average number of recurrences is 6 per year.
Testing for Herpes when symptoms are present
If there are visible or active symptoms, such as sores, small bumps, crusted over lesions or small tears in the skin, then a healthcare provider can do a swab of the area and send it out for a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction ) evaluation. This is the most accurate way to test because it looks for the viral DNA, which is present even after a few days of symptoms. We don’t use cultures any more because they are not as reliable.
When symptoms are not present
If a person does not have any symptoms and wants to know if they have been exposed to the virus and become infected, then the best test to ask for a HerpeSelect blood test. This is a Type Specific Glycoprotein (g) test which is highly accurate. We do not test IgG or IgM anymore without the type specific testing as there are too many false positives.
Can a person find out when they were infected?
This is a question that comes up all the time.
- The time it takes to develop symptoms of a Herpes infection after contact: Symptoms typically start within 3-7 days of being exposed.
- The time it takes for the body to develop blood antibodies to the Herpes Virus: Antibody formation takes between 6 – 12 weeks after being infected.
That means that with a new infection:
– The PCR test will be positive and the HerpeSelect will be negative.
When someone has had the virus and has symptoms for longer than 12 weeks:
– The PCR test will be positive and the HerpeSelect will be positive.
Read more here: Help My Partner has Herpes
Read more here: Is it a cold sore or is it Herpes
I hope this helps. Take care!