Is it Difficult to Pass Genital Herpes to the Mouth?

Dear Dr. Tom:

I have recently read that it is unlikely that herpes can be spread from a man to a woman when she is performing fellatio as long as there is not an outbreak. In addition, that it is difficult to pass genital herpes to a site on the mouth. Is there any truth to either of these?

Dr. Tom’s Response:

Dear Eagle:

We used to advise people that herpes virus infections were not transmissible when either there were no lesions or the sores had dried, crusted and scaled. That is no longer taught, because some infected persons are capable of shedding the virus, even though there is no outbreak. When shedding can occur, transmission is possible. The likelihood of actual infection depends upon the number of factors, including the immune status of the recipient. Genital herpes can be shed asymptomatically in seminal fluid and in cervical secretions from infected persons. The ease of transmission to the lips would depend upon a number of factors, both male and female. If the male were a herpes carrier, I?d bet on lip infection following unprotected oral-genital sex.


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