HSV2 Is Contagious 10% of the Time
Now that we have herpes we want to know what the chances are that we’re going to transmit herpes to our partner. I get asked this daily on my lives and in the comments. There is the preconceived thought that if you have herpes you’re contagious all the time and you’ll have outbreaks all the time and that your entire body is contagious. I can happily tell you that that is not true.
Here’s how it works.
Firstly, your entire body is not contagious. I’ve been asked by people who are newly diagnosed if they can sit in the car with their nieces or nephews. Or if they can hug people. Or if someone can sit on their lap. When I hear questions like this it makes me sad to think that there are people all over the world who don’t think they can ride in the car with their family and so on. So to clarify you are contagious where you get outbreaks. So if you have oral herpes then you would only transmit herpes from your mouth. If you have genital herpes then you would only transmit herpes genitally. Also remember herpes is skin to skin transmission.
Next to the thought that we’re going to have outbreaks all the time. Not at all. While the herpes virus is most active in our bodies the first year it then will start to slow down a bit. So in other words you can expect to have the most outbreaks in the first year of having herpes. You’ll want to remember that the number of outbreaks someone has varies from person to person. The average number of outbreaks for a person with genital HSV-2 is four to five per year. The average for genital HSV-1 is less than one outbreak per year. Source.
And then lastly how often are we contagious? So we’re contagious when the virus is replicating in our bodies so that means when we have active outbreaks or when viral shedding is happening. Just so we’re on the same page with viral shedding and asymptotic shedding according to Planned parenthood, the virus replicates silently which means that we don’t have any signs or symptoms, however, we do produce copies of the virus and we can transmit unknowingly to our partner.
In fact many patients will shed the virus and be contagious when they don’t have symptoms. Studies have shown that asymptomatic shedding occurs between 1% and 3% of the time in patients with HSV2 genital infections. Source. Source2.
These asymptomatic herpes carriers shed infectious virus 10% of the 30 or more days they were in the study, report University of Washington researcher Anna Wald, MD, MPH, and colleagues. And nearly all the time, these people had no obvious sign of herpes infection while they were actively shedding virus.