The herpes simplex virus is a common virus that causes painful blisters that break open into lesions, may cause symptoms similar to viral meningitis and is highly contagious. It is one of the most common viral infections and exists as HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 causes blisters or “cold sores” around the oral cavity and HSV-2 causes blisters primarily in the genital area. Both types are transferable to both areas of the body. The virus is spread through physical contact with open lesions but can also be spread when no lesions are visible. HSV-2 is a sexually transmitted disease but HSV-1 can be spread through oral sex and develop in the genital area.
Symptoms of HSV-2 are often mild and 90% of those infected are not aware that they have the virus. Both viruses remain in the body for life and may cause recurring lesion outbreaks. Shedding of the virus also makes it contagious even without an outbreak.
This test uses IgG technology to screen for antibodies of both HSV-1 and HSV-2. Since strains can be transferred to opposite regions through oral sex and exhibit identical symptoms, concurrent testing for both is recommended. Pregnant women should be monitored near the time of birth because the virus can be passed onto newborn infants causing viral meningitis and blindness.
Why Do I Need It?
If you think that you or your partner has been exposed to either HSV-1 or HSV-2 you should be tested. Medications can help with painful symptoms and if you are aware that you have the virus, you can protect your partner.
Understanding Oral and Genital Herpes Test Results
During the initial phase of infection the body generates IgM antibodies to fight the virus. These are replaced by IgG antibodies which remain in the body forever. The CDC and other sources recommend IgG testing for herpes because it’s much more reliable than IgM testing.