Three reasons to have a Herpes test with Better2Know:

  • Herpes (including cold sores) can be effectively managed once you have been correctly diagnosed
  • Herpes testing can be performed using a blood sample, even if you do not have symptoms
  • All Better2Know testing will tell you if you have Herpes Type 1 or Type 2, neither or both. 

What is Herpes?

Herpes is an infectious and common virus which has two distinct types: Herpes Simplex Virus Type One (HSV I), and Herpes Simplex Virus Type Two (HSV II).  

  • Oral Herpes, or HSV I, is a common cause of cold sores around the mouth.   
  • Genital Herpes, or HSV II, is a common cause of blisters in the genital area.

Once you have Herpes, it will stay in your system for the rest of your life.   You may have either or both types of Herpes.  Many people have mild or infrequent outbreaks of Herpes, as the body suppresses the virus. However, for some people with frequent or painful symptoms, medication can help to reduce the severity and decrease the frequency of Herpes outbreaks.

A person who has a herpes infection may have no symptoms at all, mild symptoms that they do not recognise as herpes (the case with most people), or outbreaks of uncomfortable blisters, usually around the mouth (called cold sores), or in the genital area.

Often the initial outbreak, which occurs about one week after contracting herpes (although can vary), is the most severe. Following this, the virus travels to a nerve root near the spine.  There it will lie dormant, until, due to physical (cold, wind) or mental (lack of sleep) stress, it becomes activated.  It will then move along the nerve to the skin area where the initial infection occurred.  The virus will then causes an outbreak. Over time the body develops some immunity but on average, most people will have four outbreaks per year.

Transmission

Herpes is transmitted via skin to skin contact on the area where a person with herpes has outbreaks.  This often occurs during sex or foreplay.  The risk of infection is greatest when there is a herpes outbreak (blisters or other symptoms). It can also occur during 4% of the time when there is “asymptomatic shedding”. This means that the virus has travelled from the nerve root to the skin but does not cause an outbreak.

Herpes blisters are usually visible on the skin, as cold sores or genital blisters. Sores inside the vagina or anus are usually only present during the first outbreak. Herpes blisters on the mouth and oral area can pass on the virus through kissing, so care should be taken whenever you have an outbreak.

If you have already been exposed and infected with herpes in the past , you will not contract the particular type (1 or 2) from another person because you have immunity.

A person with herpes does not transmit herpes to another part of their body, except in rare cases during the first outbreak. This is called the primary outbreak.

A pregnant woman who has a genital outbreak at delivery could transmit herpes to her baby during birth. This can be prevented with medication. Please let your mid wife know as soon as possible. Contracting herpes for the first-time during pregnancy could cause miscarriage if it is early in your pregnancy. If can also infect your baby in late pregnancy.

A person with herpes can reduce the risk of transmission to a new person, by avoiding contact during an outbreak and by using condoms. Additionally antiviral medication can be prescribed. The medicine acts as suppressive therapy. It needs to be taken daily and reduces risk of HSV transmission by 80%. There is currently no vaccine to prevent acquiring herpes, or reduce the risk of transmission in those who already have herpes.

Symptoms

Herpes usually causes blisters which can be itchy and uncomfortable. The first outbreak is usually the most severe. Blisters usually take between two days and three weeks to appear, following the initial infection. The blisters start off as small bumps, developing into full blisters and eventually bursting, releasing pus. Blisters can be small or large, and may be just one blister, or a cluster located close together. Other symptoms can include:

  • Painful itching in the area of the outbreak
  • Burning during urination and/or sex
  • Headaches
  • Swollen glands
  • Muscle aches
  • Feeling tired and run down
Did You Know

An estimated 80% of people in Australia carry the Herpes Simplex I virus, while approximately 25% carry HSV II. Read more.

Testing

Better2Know can test you for the Herpes virus in three different ways:

  • Blood test – our standard test, suitable for an incubation period of four to six weeks
  • Urine test – which is suitable if you have symptoms
  • Swab test – a swab test of the suspected Herpes blister

If you have an outbreak with blisters on your skin.  Then a swab can be taken at that time to test for Herpes via DNA.  This is a PCR swab. The swab will confirm whether or not the blisters are a result of a Herpes infection.  It will also show if it is HSV 1 or HSV 2, or both.

If you have an outbreak in or near your urethra (where urine flows out), a urine PCR test can give a diagnosis.  It will show you if your outbreak is due to Herpes.  The test will also show if it is HSV1 or HSV 2 or both.

If you do not have an outbreak (any symptoms), Better2Know can help.  It is possible to test for previous herpes exposure and infection with a blood test.  The test measures antibodies that are produced by the body responding to the infection.

IgM antibodies are produced first after an initial infection with Herpes.  They can be measured from about 2 weeks after contracting herpes and disappear after about 3 months.

IgG antibodies are produced 3 to 12 weeks after infection with Herpes and remain for life.  Although in rare cases, they can go too low to be detected on a blood test.  If IgG  testing is done too soon after an initial infection, there may not yet be enough antibodies produced to show on a blood test.

The usual blood test for herpes involves testing your blood for IgG antibodies for HSV 1 and HSV 2. A positive test for either type does not indicate where on your body outbreaks can occur.  It does not tell when or if you will have an outbreak, or when they could be at risk of transmitting herpes.

Results are available within two to five working days from your sample’s arrival at our laboratory. Our comprehensive testing will state whether you have HSV I, HSV II, both infections, or neither of the two.

Treatment

If you have Herpes, it will remain in your body for your life. There is currently no specific treatment, but there is medication to control the outbreaks as they occur. Many HSV I outbreaks can be controlled with over-the-counter remedies.

Less than half of infected patients will get recurrent, painful outbreaks. There are medications available to decrease both the frequency and the severity of Herpes outbreaks. Anti-viral medications are available through your doctor (both creams and pills), which can help control the infection. Maintaining good hygiene and a healthy diet can also help to manage your condition.

Potential Consequences

Herpes should be of particular concern if you or your partner is pregnant and the woman has her first outbreak during the pregnancy. You should always take the advice of your doctor or midwife.

Primary Herpes, where the blisters are near the vaginal opening, may cause a problem during delivery, and could cause the virus to be passed on to the baby. This can result in serious neo-natal infections. In such cases, a caesarean section may be necessary. This is why it is important to discuss your outbreaks with your midwife.

A recurrent Herpes outbreak (referring to more than one outbreak) when your baby is due, is unlikely to cause this problem, so a natural birth is usually recommended for most women. Any pregnant woman with Herpes should discuss this with their doctor or midwife.

There is also an increased chance of recurrent symptoms during pregnancy. These will not harm your baby but do mean that some women who have not previously had symptoms may notice them for the first time. If you are in any way concerned, please consult a healthcare professional.

Booking your Herpes test

To book your Herpes test with Better2Know today please call our experienced team on the telephone number above. Alternatively, you can arrange your appointment online by selecting the Book Now button at the top of the page.