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Do herpes symptoms show up where you came into contact with the virus? For example, if someone had a sore on the tip of their penis, and you had vaginal intercourse, would it be unlikely to get sores on your thighs but not on the vagina?


The first time you get herpes simplex virus (HSV) and you get symptoms such as a sore, it will usually show up in the general area of contact.  This is known as a primary outbreak.

After this first outbreak, HSV travels up the nerve and becomes inactive in the nerve cells close to the spine.  It may become active from time to time (recurrent outbreaks). With recurrent outbreaks, the virus travels down the nerve to the surface of the skin where a sore may appear. Sometimes there is no sore but there is virus on the skin. This is called asymptomatic shedding.

With genital HSV, recurrent outbreaks can show up anywhere in the “boxer short” region. This is because the same group of nerves supplies the genitals, thighs, lower abdomen, anus, rectum and buttocks.  Recurrent outbreaks can show up in the original place of contact, or they can show up in different places in the "boxer shorts" area with each outbreak. 

It is also possible to get a" non-primary" first outbreak. This can happen in people who have HSV, but did not notice any symptoms when they first got it.  A person may get their first symptoms (sores) years later.  The sores in a "non-primary" outbreak can show up anywhere in the boxer short area. 

For more info check out our herpes page.

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Health Nurse

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This answer was posted on December 5, 2017

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