Can I spread Herpes to another site?
May 30, 2002
I was told that you can spread herpes by scratching or touching a cut after touching/scratching a herpes vessicle. Is this true? If so, does the virus recur in the new site also.
Response from Mr. Kull
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) types I and II most commonly infect specific areas of the body: genitals, anus/rectum, buttocks and upper thighs, and mouth. It is also possible to transmit herpes to a person's eye. Other than that, it is highly unlikely that HSV I or II would infect other areas of the body.
For example: genital herpes lesions can appear anywhere in the genital region -- vagina, vulva, penis, scrotum, testicles, anus, buttocks, and thigh. When one has a genital herpes simplex virus infection, the virus travels up nerve pathways that start near the surface of the skin and rests at the base of the spine where it remains "dormant" or "latent." When the virus is triggered or reactivated, it travels down the nerve pathways to the skin where it might cause sores or lesions. The nerves in the genital region -- thighs, genitals, anus, and buttocks -- are part of the same network, so theoretically an infected person can have consecutive outbreaks in different areas of the genital region. A genital infection will not travel to other areas of the body on its own: that is, it remains in the general vicinity of the initial infection.
A person who has a herpes outbreak in the genitals should be somewhat cautious about touching the lesions and then their eye or mouth. It is possible to transmit the virus to other parts of the body that way, but it is not necessarily likely. It's best to leave the lesions alone and let them heal in time.
For more information about herpes, you can call the National Herpes Hotline at (919)361-8488.
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