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Diagnosed with herpes cold sore virus. Is this contagious?

Mar 2013
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Answered by
Practicing since : 1998
Answered : 5956 Questions
Hi Dr. Grief,
I am a 61 year old very healthy woman but I have had the herpes virus (genital) for approx 36 years, only I did not know those funny little blistering sores I used to get occasionally on my buttocks were in fact herpes or were contagious. It was only last year when a doctor did a blood test for STIs and mentioned it to me. During that time, I have been married twice: first time for 10 years and second time for 20 years and have two children aged 24 and 26. Neither one of my ex-husbands has the herpes virus and also I have had at least three long term relationships since then and these partners didn't get the herpes virus from me either. So my question is: Why am I not contagious when all I hear is fear and terror being instilled into people who have this virus about how contagious it is when I am living proof that in some people it really isn't???? I have also been diagnosed with the herpes cold sore virus when I have never had a cold sore in my entire life. Many thanks, XXXXXXX
Posted Sat, 16 Mar 2013 in Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Answered by Dr. Aarti Abraham 2 hours later
I understand your query completely.

Firstly, there is no way that a herpes virus is NOT contagious.
Even if you are asymptomatic, you are constantly shedding the virus, so you are potentially infectious to sexual partners ( as you have genital herpes ).
I can think of some reasons why none of your partners got infected in the past :

1. Genital herpes is mostly HSV 2, however, 30 % of people have HSV 1 ( same as oral or bodily herpes ) on the genitals. This particular type of herpes virus is only one fourth as infectious as HSV 2.
2. You had lesions on the buttocks, so vaginal intercourse and oral intercourse might not have led to transmission, unless you had anal sex.
3. Also the immunity of the other person matters a lot - people with heightened immunity have lesser chances of acquiring an infection.
4. XXXXXXX isn't it possible that just as you came to know at 60 years, and that too incidentally, that you have herpes, similarly the other people in question are also blissfully unaware ? Also, some people with herpes do not have any symptoms or manifestations and remain unaware of it till a test tells them otherwise.

As you are healthy and happy, I think you should not ponder over the situation for too long.

Take care, and feel free to ask for further clarifications.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Diagnosed with herpes cold sore virus. Is this contagious? 2 hours later
Thank you so much, Dr. XXXXXXX what you suggest makes sense. But once I got the herpes news, I contacted my ex-husband (no. 2) and he denied having any herpes virus and I also contacted my ex partners after my second marriage broke up and they also denied they had any herpes virus. Isn't it more obvious in men than women with the lesions appearing on their penises? I think I would have noticed!!!! But thanks for your response, from now on I am on a very high Lysine diet. Best wishes, XXXXXXX
Answered by Dr. Aarti Abraham 4 hours later
Hi again XXXXXXX
Lets have a look at some statistics :
If there is no intercourse during outbreaks, no condoms regularly used, and no antiviral therapy taken daily, then the approximate transmission rates are as follows: If a man is infected and a woman is not, then transmission will occur in approximately 10% of couples each year. If a woman is infected and a man is not, then the transmission rate is around 4% per year. (Transmission rates in same-sex couples are not yet well defined.) Regular condom use can reduce these rates by around half.

Here is the link to a write up you would find useful going through , thats from where the above statistics are :

Obviously, the most logical conclusion to draw is that you ( and your partners ) were on the luckier side of things, all the more reason to stay happy now.

All the best, dear.
Take care.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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