[Question #175] Herpes transmission/survival on dollar bills

38 months ago
Can herpes, both HSV -1 and HSV-2, survive and continue to be transmittable on a dollar bill? Take my situation for example:
On Tuesday evening, at around 6:30PM, my Aunt gave me a $20 dollar bill from her purse after driving her home from work. I folded the bill in half and placed it in the left front pocket of my cargo shorts. The bill remained in my pocket for the rest of the evening, even after I had removed my shorts before going to bed. Though I believe I may have taken it out once really quick, to show off to my girlfriend.
 The next day, at around 3PM, I picked up my shorts and finally took the $20 bill out of the pocket. Before placing it in my wallet, I unfolded the bill and smelled it(Since I was a child, I've always loved the smell of money and sometimes have a bad habit of wanting to smell it). As I lowered the bill away from my face, it gently brushed against the tip of my nose and the top of my upper lip.

My question is -- can I catch HSV from this situation?
From what I can gather off of the Internet, HSV can only survive no more than 10 seconds outside the body. But is this ONLY due to being in the open air? Can it still die quickly even if it's inside a pocket for hours? Especially on a folded bill? 

To be clear, I have no clue what my aunt's herpes status is, though I doubt she has anything. I for one, discovered I had HSV-1 through a blood test last year. I've probably had it for many many years, and I believe it to be oral. Most of my current fear seems to be of contracting HSV-2, especially from objects. In order to cure myself completely of this fear, I'm trying to better understand how HSV dies on objects and in the environment; including objects that aren't out in the open air. Thank you.
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
38 months ago
Let me help you this concern, this is an easy question!  There is zero risk of you acquiring herpes in this situation - absolutely zero.  First of all, I'm not sure how herpes would get on a $20 bill  because the herpes virus really needs human cells in which to replicated.  So even if someone put the in their vagina with herpes virus on it and rubbed their penis against it, the virus would have none of the what it needed to replicate and it would die very quickly.  Having typed that, I cannot imagine why anyone would do that and it looks pretty silly, but you get my point, right?  Herpes would never be transmitted in this way. 

Terri
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38 months ago
Thank you for your response! I believe I get your point -- the herpes virus cannot replicate itself outside the human body; therefore, it would still die quickly, even if it was inside my pocket without the benefit of open air. Correct?

I know the possibility of herpes being on a $20 bill sounded silly, but my worry was it getting transferred there from Herpetic  Whitlow(Herpes on the fingers).  But I'm guessing that is an extremely rare condition?
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
38 months ago
There are no silly questions, honestly. 
Herpetic Whitlow is uncommon through not extremely rare.  But even if your aunt had herpetic whitlow and she happened to touch the bill, the same principle applies.  The virus can't live off the body.  Even if it was in your pocket!

Terri
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38 months ago
Thank you for your response! I'm starting to get a better idea on how HSV works, and it's finally helping me get over my phobia.
Though I have one final question, and it pertains to my fiance -- She's in the Navy and gets tested yearly, and to this day does not have HSV-1. Amazing considering we've been seeing each other since 2006.  This afternoon we were eating home baked chicken nuggets, and shared a small bowl of Ranch Dressing for dip. My question is: Is it possible for me to transfer HSV-1 to her by sharing Ranch dipping sauce? Especially since I'm guilty of double dipping sometimes.
I do have a second question linked to that -- Could I transfer HSV-1 to my own fingers from the ranch sauce? After we were done eating, I took the bowl to the sink and starting rinsing it out with hot water, but I used my fingers to help empty out the left over ranch. I'm guessing it probably wouldn't be possible since I already have HSV-1(probably since 2003), and have anti-bodies that would help prevent it from getting a foothold somewhere else on my body. Am I correct? Just wanted to reassure what I've learned so far about HSV. Thank you for all your help!
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
38 months ago
Isn't it acceptable to double dip with your partner?  Yikes, I always thought it was!  I figure if you can perform oral sex on each other, surely you can double dip
Seriously, that is not a risk.  Remember that it takes a certain volume of virus to contract herpes and that would be completely lost in this scenario.  And yes, you are correct, you have a great immune response by now and will not get HSV 1 in a new place, with a huge degree of certainty. 
The HSV 1 screening test misses about 1 out of 4 infections so she could actually have infection with HSV 1 and not know it. 
I sense that you are really struggling with the herpes issue.  She may wish to get a western blot to be certain she is not infected with HSV 1.  If she is, then you two can put that worry aside.

Terri
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