Can you get herpes from drinking after somebody? Can you get herpes from sharing towels? From sharing bathwater? Can you get herpes from blood? Can you get herpes from toilet seats? Can you get herpes from shaking hands or cuddling? The clear and resounding answer to all of these is simply NO.

You can get herpes only from skin-to-skin contact. You can get herpes even when there are no visible signs of herpes on the skin. It’s known as “viral shedding.” And the kind of skin-to-skin contact we’re talking about is for the most part genital-to-genital or mouth-to-genital. Herpes can only be transmitted through easy access into the body, therefore some sort of superficial cut, abrasion or mucous membrane must be present in order to allow access to the virus. And that kind of transmission generally takes place through the rubbing and friction that comes with sex (either oral or genital). The likelihood of passing herpes by simply touching skin together is unlikely.

If you abstain from sex during herpes outbreaks, the risk of passing it during herpes dormancy is 3-8% — the risk is greater when passing herpes from male to female (Warren, Terri J. “Counseling Patients With Genital Herpes Medscape June 22, 2002.) This risk is inherent in all sexual activity, even with condoms since the site of the outbreak/shedding isn’t always covered. For more facts and statistics, download the handouts here:

Are you worried that you might have contracted herpes? Go to your doctor to find out for sure if you’re having a herpes outbreak. It’s helpful to know whether it’s HSV-1 or HSV-2. Soon after contracting herpes you will develop the antibodies to be able to find out which type you have via a herpes blood test. This is a convenient way to find out without having to rush to the doctor during a herpes outbreak.

Worried about spreading it to other parts of your body? Based on my experience and everything I’ve heard from the medical community and people in the support group, it’s difficult to spread herpes manually from one part of the body to another. It is possible, but it’s hard to do. Keep in mind that for some people, the virus shows up in the exact same spot for every herpes outbreak, while for other people, their outbreaks move around a bit (the virus might use a different nerve system/”herpes highway” to get to the surface of the skin). For those where it moves around a bit, this is most likely not because of anything you’ve done. In order for you to manually move the virus to other parts of your body, you’ll have to transfer the fluid from within a herpes sore to another part of your body that has an opening (a cut, a mucous membrane). And because of the rapid breakdown of the herpes virus in open air, this would have to be done with ninja-like swiftness. But if you have any sort of paranoia, simply wash your hands after touching any herpes sore and you’re definitely home-free. The one thing to be wary of is touching any herpes outbreak and immediately rubbing your eyes. Since your eyes are another mucous membrane, herpes can spread to your eyes to create an ocular herpes outbreak. And that’s not too pleasant.

If you already have herpes … you may feel all alone with this new virus. The truth is, you are not alone. You’re only as alone as you want to be. Another big component to getting herpes is asking if you will ever find someone who will accept you. The answer is a huge yes! A big part of finding someone is disclosing that you have herpes in “the dreaded herpes talk.”

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