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Infectious Diseases

Genital herpes through oral sex

03/17/2006

Question:

I have been doing alot of research on the internet and most of it says that if you recieve oral sex fomr someone with a hsv-1 cold sore and you have these cold sores, your chances of contracting genital herpes is very slim. When my boyfriend was at the very final stages of his cold sore, he preformed oral sex on me. About one week prior to this, we kissed and i came in contact wiht cold sores for the first time. I developed a cold sore within days. What are the chances i have contracted herpes? because i was exposed previously to this virus, even though it was only one week in advance, is it likely i had developed anti bodies against it? and if someone has no anti bodies to the virus, what are the chances they will contract genital herpes? This is has been over a month ago, and i have not yet had any symptoms to suggest the virus

Answer:

If you have genital herpes infection, you can easily pass or transmit the virus to an uninfected partner during sex. Most people get genital herpes by having sex with someone who is shedding the herpes virus either during an outbreak or during a period with no symptoms. People who do not know they have herpes play an important role in transmission. You can transmit herpes through close contact other than sexual intercourse, through oral sex or close skin-to-skin contact, for example. People with herpes should follow a few simple steps to avoid spreading the infection to other places on their body or other people. Avoid touching the infected area during an outbreak, and wash your hands after contact with the area. Do not have sexual contact (vaginal, oral, or anal) from the time of first genital symptoms until symptoms are completely gone. Symptoms of herpes are called outbreaks. The first outbreak appears within 2 weeks after you become infected and can last for several weeks. These symptoms might include tingling or sores near the area where the virus has entered the body, such as on the genital or rectal area, on buttocks or thighs, or occasionally on other parts of the body where the virus has entered through broken skin. They also can occur inside the vagina and on the cervix in women, or in the urinary passage of women and men. Small red bumps appear first, develop into small blisters, and then become itchy, painful sores that might develop a crust and will heal without leaving a scar. Sometimes, there is a crack or raw area or some redness without pain, itching, or tingling. Other symptoms that may accompany the first (and less often future) outbreak of genital herpes are fever, headache, muscle aches, painful or difficult urination, vaginal discharge, and swollen glands in the groin area. Often, though, people don't recognize their first or subsequent outbreaks. People who have mild or no symptoms at all may not think they are infected with herpes. They can still transmit the virus to others, however. A blood test cannot show whether you are having a herpes outbreak, but it can show if you are infected with HSV. Newer blood tests, called type-specific tests, can tell whether you are infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2. Blood tests cannot tell between genital and other herpes infections. Health experts assume, however, that if you are positive for HSV-2, you have had genital infection. Because herpes can be transmitted from someone who has no symptoms, using these precautions is not enough to prevent transmission. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration approved Valtrex for use in preventing transmission of genital herpes. It has to be taken continuously by the infected person, and while it significantly decreases the risk of the transmission of herpes, transmission can still occur. Do not have oral genital contact in the presence of any symptoms or findings of oral herpes. Using barriers such as condoms during sexual activity may decrease transmission, but transmission can occur even if condoms are used correctly. Condoms may not cover all infected areas. Because herpes can be transmitted from someone who has no symptoms, using these precautions is not enough to prevent transmission. Recently, the Food and Drug Administration approved Valtrex for use in preventing transmission of genital herpes. It has to be taken continuously by the infected person, and while it significantly decreases the risk of the transmission of herpes, transmission can still occur. Do not have oral genital contact in the presence of any symptoms or findings of oral herpes. Using barriers such as condoms during sexual activity may decrease transmission, but transmission can occur even if condoms are used correctly. Condoms may not cover all infected areas.

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Response by:

Pamposh   Kaul, MD Pamposh Kaul, MD
Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati