You don’t have to have cold sores, lesions, blisters or any signs or symptoms or herpes on the mouth or the genitals to be tested. Of course, it there is an area of concern, that area can be tested, but If you’re concerned that you or someone you care about has herpes, you can also be tested before you have sex.
PCR testing when symptoms are present
If there are visible or active symptoms, such as sores, blisters, 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 the lesion because it looks for the viral DNA, which is present in the skin even a few days after symptoms appear.
Blood tests when symptoms are not present
If a person does not have any symptoms and wants to know if they have the virus present in their body or have been exposed to the herpes virus, then the best test to ask for a Type Specific Herpes blood test.
This highly accurate test detects a very specific protein,(Glycoprotein g) found on the herpes antibody our body makes after exposure. This test can also determine which type of Herpes is present.
Because it takes the body approximately 6-12 weeks to develop an antibody to the Herpes Virus, this test is most accurate 3 months after any suspected exposure.
Can a person find out when they were infected?
This is a question that comes up all the time. The answer is that it depends.
- For any new infection, symptoms typically start within 3-7 days of being exposed.
- Our bodies develop antibodies and the type specific proteins to the Herpes Virus about 6 – 12 weeks after being infected.
If there are lesions present and you’re being tested
With a new infection:
– The PCR test will be positive and the Type Specific Test will be negative because antibodies have not formed
If someone has had the virus for more than 12 weeks
– The PCR test will be positive and the Type Specific Test will be positive. Unfortunately we won’t be able to tell you how long the virus has been in your body.