Can you get Herpes from a Glass?

Dear Dr. Tom:

My sister has genital herpes, is it possible she can spread the disease to the rest of my family by: sharing drinking glasses? sharing towels? toilet seat? swimming pool? sauna?

Dr. Tom’s Response:

Dear Concerned about Sister’s Genital Herpes:

If your sister has shown no mouth lesions (herpes labialis), and her infection manifests only in the genital area, then spread by drinking glasses to rest of the family is most unlikely. The disease can be spread that way if a person with mouth sores uses a glass, and another immediately uses the unwashed glass. A report on herpes shedding and survival from fever blisters was published in the April 1982 journal, Pediatrics, p. 547. I am aware of at least one case where genital herpes was transmitted to another person who re-used an infected person’s damp towel immediately afterward. The inherited infection was also in the genital area, suggesting that both persons towelled in the groin. Some would argue (without substantiation) that fresh fluid from a herpetic lesion deposited on a toilet seat could pass the infection along to an immediate next user. I have never known this to happen, nor have I been made aware of any sexually transmitted disease micro-organism being passed along on toilet seats. Swimming pool chemicals are unfavorable to most micro-organisms, including HSV. Sauna temperatures and chemicals are detrimental to survival of HSV. As a general principle, herpes viruses are not spread by fomites.


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