Herpes testing is required to detect both types of the herpes virus. Type 1 (HSV-1) and Type 2 (HSV-2) can both cause genital herpes. However, HSV-2 primarily causes genital herpes. You can have HSV-1, HSV-2 or both, and not even know it. Some people exhibit minimal symptoms or no symptoms at all. When symptoms are apparent, they usually appear as one or several blisters on or near a person’s genitals or rectum.
Who Can Contract Genital Herpes?
In the U.S., 20% of those 12 and up have an HSV-2 infection. Of those, 90% are unaware they have the virus. Experts believe 55% to 75% of adults are infected with oral herpes.
How Can Herpes Be Spread?
HSV-1 can spread person-to-person through kissing. HSV-1 can also be passed through oral sex from the mouth to the genitals becoming genital herpes. HSV-2 is spread by either anal or vaginal sex. HSV-2 can also be transferred from the genitals to the mouth.
What are the Different Types of Herpes Testing?
The type specific IgG test is the recommended test for detecting Herpes. The herpes simplex virus gives off antibodies that this test detects. The test can determine what type of herpes simplex virus you have, but cannot state definitively where the infection has manifested on the body. If you are asymptomatic, the length the virus has been present in the body cannot be determined.
The IgM test does not tell you which type of herpes simplex virus you have. However, it can detect the antibodies produced shortly after initial HSV contact. These antibodies show up about one week after contracting the virus, which makes this test ideal for testing after recent contact.
What Type of Sample Do You Need?
To search for the specific antibodies, a blood sample is taken during Herpes testing.
- Genital herpes symptoms can vary; some people have no noticeable symptoms.
- Symptoms usually appear 2 to 20 days after initial contact
- With a mild case, no symptoms may be evident at all
- People who have had facial herpes, or cold sores, can be partially immune to the virus and symptoms are less severe
- Visible sores are sometimes apparent with the first attack
- Outbreaks can last 10 to 21 days
HSV-1 (Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1)
HSV-1 usually infects the oral cavity. However, genital HSV-1 can be contracted by oral-to-genital contact with an HSV-1-infected person. Most HSV-1-infected people show no signs or minimal signs of having the virus. If a sign does occur, it usually appears as a single blister, or several blisters on or around the lips and mouth.
HSV-2 (Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2)
HSV-2 usually infects the genitals of both men and women. However, HSV-2 can be contracted by genital-to-oral contact with an HSV-2-infected person. Genital HSV-2 infection is less common in men (one out of five) than women (one out of four).
You can contract herpes from an infected partner even if they do not have a visible sore. People with HSV-2 infections may never have sores and very mild signs of the virus. Sometimes, they mistake a mild sore as a skin condition or insect bite.
The blisters appear around the genitals or the rectum. These blisters usually burst, leaving behind an ulcer. If this is the first outbreak, these ulcers generally take 2 to 4 weeks to go away. If infected, you can expect several outbreaks during the first year (4 to 5 weeks). The virus remains in the body. However, outbreaks decrease over time. For those with a suppressed immune system, herpes outbreaks can occur more frequently with herpes blisters that are more severe.
When used correctly, a latex condom can minimize the risk of contracting genital herpes. But a condom does not guarantee protection if the infected area is not covered by the condom.
If blisters or herpes symptoms are evident, the only way to not infect a partner is to completely abstain from any sexual activity. However, an infected partner can still infect their sex partners even though they do not have any symptoms of HSV. So, HSV-infected individuals should advise their partners that they may become infected, and herpes testing is strongly advised for anyone involved with infected individuals.
Female Herpes Outbreak
Symptoms usually appear within 2 to 20 days of becoming infected. Women with symptoms have more frequent outbreaks during the first few years after contracting HSV. The outbreaks will lessen in later years.
Male Herpes Outbreak
If transmitted by oral sex, an HSV infection can pass from the mouth to the genitals or the genitals to the mouth. HSV does not spread through toilet seats, swimming pools, hot tubs, or bath tubs.