Can you Only Get Herpes with an Outbreak?

Dear Dr. Tom:

A friend told me she slept with a guy who has this, he told her about it, but said he hadn’t had an outbreak for 2 years and that she could only get it if he was broken out. Is that true? With all the things she has been hearing, she is really worried.

Dr. Tom’s Response:

Dear Tina:

Never believe such talk about not getting it if there’s no outbreak. Some infected persons, but not all necessarily, secrete the virus asymptomatically. Right now this seems to be 5-10% of the infected population. This fact is the explanation for so many of the questions, "How did I ever get it?" Condom use or a new sleeping partner are ways to avoid contact with the virus from someone who may be a shedder. If it is a serious relationship another possibility is to perform a virus culture on the suspect person to determine if he is actually a shedder.


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