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How is herpes transmitted exactly...fluid mucosal contact?
Feb 20, 1997

How is herpes transmitted exactly...fluid mucosal contact?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

Herpes is transmitted by DIRECT contact with a herpes lesion. The herpes virus can be found on the lips of the mouth (also known as a "cold sore" or a "fever blister"), the penis, vagina, or rectum. If the lips, penis, vagina, or rectum come in direct contact with a herpes lesion, transmission can occur.

Just before visible symptoms appear, the infected person will notice a tingling sensation at the site of the infection. At this point in time, the virus is highly infectious. Within a day or two, a painful, blistery lesion will appear, that can have a yellowish fluid coming from it. This is also highly infectious. The lesion eventually crusts over as it begins to heal. After a week or two, the lesion will usually fully heal and the person will no longer have symptoms. During a persons first outbreak, flu-like symptoms (muscle aches, fever, headache, body aches etc.) may accompany the lesion. This is called Acute Viral Syndrome, and is very much like Acute Viral Syndrome seen with recent HIV infection. However, a lesion will occur (in addition to the flu-like symptoms) when Acute Viral Syndrome is due to the herpes virus. Acute Viral Syndrome is not usually seen during subsequent outbreaks. Once the lesion heals, the herpes virus is no longer very infectious. However transmission can still technically occur, only it is not nearly as infectious as when symptoms are present. Again, the key to transmission of the herpes virus is direct contact of the lips, penis, vagina, or rectum, to the herpes lesion or the infected area. Herpes is a lifelong infection, and symptoms can recur at any time, but are most likely to recur when a person is under physical or emotional stress. Once symptoms re-appear, the virus is once again highly infectious.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).



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