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What are the different ways that a person can contract genital herpes?

Genital herpes is usually contracted from skin to skin contact with an infected area. The infection needs to be active on the skin’s surface for the infection to spread.

For example, if someone has a genital herpes infection they could pass the virus onto another person by touching or making contact with the active infected area, such as through vaginal, anal or oral sex, or by rubbing against the infection. Friction, heat and moisture, as well as a break or tear in the skin, could increase the chance of the herpes virus spreading.

Herpes is not spread by saliva, semen, blood or body fluids. It is also not spread through toilet seats or sharing the same bed.

A person will usually notice signs or symptoms if the infection is active, such as itching, redness or tingling along the legs… but not always.  Sometimes the virus can be shedding itself at the skin’s surface without any warning signs. This is referred to as Asymptomatic Viral Shedding.

Some cool statistics to wrap your mind, taken from the HSV Blog (an excellent resource):

By avoiding sex during an active outbreak, chances of virus transmission are 4% a year (Terri Warren, RN, NP – WebMD, 2005). Yes, per year, not sexual session. Dividing this figure by 365 days (or nights), this makes the possibility of spreading the virus on any given day/night .0001%, or 1/10,000 (.04 / 365 = 0.000109589041).

If also using condoms or anti-viral drugs, it cuts those already-staggering odds in half to 2% a year. The possibility of spreading HSV on any given night would then become 1/20,000. To put this in perspective, you have a better chance of literally dying in a car accident tomorrow on your way to school or work (1/18,585), although, surely this “risk” won’t stop you from driving. 1 in 18,000… driving seems pretty safe, doesn’t it? The fact that you will still drive your car (or ride in cars) after reading this article is proof that you agree.

It’s cool, though, because you’d be right. Driving is pretty safe. Just remember: having a knowledgeable HSV+ partner is safer. If you’re not scared to drive, you are agreeing to this by default.