Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is very common. Most people who have it never get any symptoms and are unaware that they have it. It can still be passed to someone else when the person is not having symptoms as the virus will shed on the skin from time to time. For example if the person has cold sores it will shed in the mouth area and can be passed with kissing and oral sex. When on the genitals it will shed in the genital area and can be passed when having genital contact.
What you describe sounds like a HSV outbreak but it is difficult to say as your swab test was negative. The old HSV culture tests we used to use a few years ago would sometimes show a negative result when the person had HSV, but the new HSV PCR tests we use today are very sensitive. If someone is having an outbreak and has moist lesion it is very unlikely that the HSV PCR test would show a negative result if it was HSV that was causing the problem.
As HSV is very common it’s possible that your partner already had HSV 2 or had it pass to him from another partner. It’s difficult to know for sure, if people do get a primary outbreak e.g. HSV is passed to them and they develop symptoms straight away. They usually get symptoms in 2-21 days, but many people who have HSV never get symptoms that they notice or get a non-primary outbreak. This is when someone has HSV, did not have any symptoms when it was passed to them but they get there first noticeable outbreak much later.
I am glad to hear that you are feeling better and there is always the possibility that something else was causing your symptoms. I would not say that it is HSV until you have a positive test. As it is common for HSV to reoccur I would recommend getting another HSV swab test done if you ever get symptoms again. If you never get symptoms again you can always chat to the health professional you saw about getting a HSV blood test if you would like to know your status.
We find that the best way to test for HSV is by taking a swab from the sores as this will tell you what type it is and where it is. There is blood tests available to check for HSV but it will not tell you were it is on the body. Many people I see at the clinic think they have been tested for HSV or that if they have no symptoms they don’t have HSV.
As HSV is very common, most people do not get symptoms and it is not a standard test offered when STI testing, it can be really difficult to work out where it came from and how long someone has had it.
Condoms do reduce the chance of HSV passing but since it can pass to areas not covered by the condom, there is still as chance of it passing when condoms are used.
To lower the chances of passing or getting HSV:
• Condoms and dental dams may help to prevent HSV
• You can still be sexual when you have an outbreak, but take care to avoid skin-to-skin contact in the area of the sore (this would mean not having oral sex when you have a sore on the mouth, but genital contact is fine)
• Consider antiviral medication if you have frequent outbreaks
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