Are Herpes Sores Contagious?

Dear Dr. Tom:

I am curious to know if when you have genital herpes and have the sores else where on the body, are those sores contagious? What are the possibilities of contracting the virus if the person has not had an outbreak for a very long time?

Dr. Tom’s Response:

Dear Anonymous:

Herpetic sores should be considered as infectious at all times. Some time ago, we used to advise people that once the sores had dried and crusted, they were no longer capable of passing the virus. That may still be the case with some, but other infected persons who are known as shedders can transmit the virus even after the sores have healed. The possibility of contracting the virus from a person who has not had an outbreak in a long time seems to be much less. Examples are numerous couples married for years where one has a quiescent infection while the other has failed to acquire it. If a person is known to be infected, the safest procedure is to give the virus no opportunity to pass over into a non-infected person.


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