Herpes simplex virus (HSV) can be transmitted through various means, primarily through direct contact with an infected person’s skin or bodily fluids. Here are some common modes of transmission:
- Skin-to-skin contact: The most common method of HSV transmission is through direct contact with the skin or mucous membranes of an infected individual, particularly during active outbreaks when the virus is shedding. This can occur through activities such as kissing, oral-genital contact (HSV-1 or HSV-2), or genital-to-genital contact (HSV-2).
- Sexual contact: HSV-2 is predominantly associated with genital herpes and is primarily transmitted through sexual contact, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex. However, HSV-1 can also cause genital herpes through oral-genital contact.
- Sharing personal items: HSV can be transmitted through sharing personal items such as towels, razors, utensils, or other objects that come into contact with infected skin or mucous membranes, particularly during active outbreaks.
- Vertical transmission: Infants can acquire HSV from their mothers during childbirth if the mother has active genital herpes lesions at the time of delivery. This can lead to neonatal herpes, which can be severe and potentially life-threatening.
- Asymptomatic shedding: Even when no symptoms are present, HSV can still be shed from the skin or mucous membranes of infected individuals. Asymptomatic shedding can occur intermittently and contributes to the transmission of the virus.
It’s important to note that HSV transmission is more likely to occur during active outbreaks when symptoms such as blisters or sores are present. However, transmission can still occur even in the absence of visible symptoms due to asymptomatic shedding.
Practicing safe sex, including the use of condoms or dental dams, and avoiding contact with infected skin or mucous membranes during active outbreaks can help reduce the risk of HSV transmission. Additionally, individuals with HSV should avoid sharing personal items and should inform sexual partners of their infection status to prevent transmission. If you suspect you have been exposed to HSV or have symptoms suggestive of an HSV infection, it’s important to seek medical evaluation and testing.