When Is Herpes Contagious and What Is the Typical Exposure Period?


Quick Answer

Both forms of the Herpes simplex virus -HSV-1 and HSV-2- are contagious when sores are present on the genitals or around the mouth, reports Healthline. Individuals with sores should avoid kissing, sexual activity and the sharing of personal items with others to prevent spread of the virus.

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Full Answer

The HSV-1 virus causes sores around the mouth of infected persons, reports Healthline. However, genital sores may result if oral sex is received from an individual with HSV-1 oral lesions.

HSV-2 is primarily responsible for genital sores; contact with such sores is the primary mode of transmission. There is no typical exposure period for herpes, and lesions may remain open for an indeterminate amount of time. Several prescription medications are available for aiding the healing of sores, including famciclovir and valaciclovir, states Healthline. Since they may not fully cover all present sores, condoms do not guarantee protection against herpes.

Risk factors for developing herpes include multiple sexual partners or the presence of a secondary sexually transmitted infection, adds Healthline. Females and those with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk for developing herpes. The virus is commonly diagnosed through samples of fluid drained from sores; antibody tests can be used in the absence of sores.

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