Frequently Asked Questions
I think I have genital herpes. Is it necessary to get tested?
Yes. If you suspect you may have herpes, you should make a doctor's appointment right away so you can be tested. Once you are properly diagnosed, you and your doctor can discuss ways to manage this disease and reduce the risk of transmitting herpes to your partner or baby, if you are pregnant.
How is herpes diagnosed?
Health professionals diagnose herpes by taking your medical/sexual history, performing a clinical examination, and ordering laboratory tests. The presence of the herpes virus can sometimes be determined from a swab of an active lesion or sore. A blood test (serology) can also determine if you have herpes, regardless of your symptoms. The HerpeSelect kit is an accurate test that can help your clinician determine if you have herpes simplex virus type-1 or type-2 (HSV-1 or HSV-2) antibodies2.
Can you spread genital herpes when you are not having an outbreak?
Yes. Genital herpes can be spread even when there are no visible symptoms (asymptomatic viral shedding). Most people contract genital herpes from an infected partner showing no symptoms.
If I become pregnant and have genital herpes, can I transmit it to the baby?
It is possible to transmit herpes to your baby should you become infected during pregnancy or if you have an outbreak at the time of delivery. You should speak with your physician to discuss ways to reduce the possibility of transmission to your baby. Your physician can carefully monitor you for symptoms during your pregnancy so you can have a healthy baby.
How did I get the infection?
If you have been sexually involved with more than one partner, it can be difficult to determine the source of infection. Genital herpes infections can be spread even when there are no visible signs of outbreak, and most people who are infected do not realize they have it. Since symptoms of herpes can go unrecognized, it could also be difficult to determine when you were first infected. In one study, about 70% of infections were transmitted by partners that did not have symptoms at the time5. It is important to keep in mind that oral sex can also lead to a genital herpes (HSV-1) infection if your partner has an active cold sore.
What do I tell my partner?
When you are diagnosed with herpes, it is important to share this information with your partner immediately in a direct and honest manner. If you are already sexually active, there is a good chance you partner is also infected and needs to visit a healthcare facility for diagnosis and treatment.