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How is genital herpes transmitted?

Genital herpes is acquired by sexual contact with someone who is infected. It was once believed that the virus could be transmitted only when the virus was active and causing symptoms, such as sores and blisters. Now, it is known that the virus can spread even when there are no symptoms (asymptomatic transmission). In addition, research suggests that a large proportion of people who appear to have no symptoms do have symptoms that they just don't recognize.

If you have oral herpes, you also can transmit the infection to the genital area of a partner during oral-genital sex. Some genital herpes infections in the United States are due to herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1); presumably, many of these were transmitted during oral sex.

There is no documented case of herpes being spread by contact with objects such as toilet seats or hot tubs. While rare, transmission is possible from skin-to-skin contact through open sores. Prudent hand-washing and personal hygiene decrease or nearly eliminate that risk.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.