[Question #1902] Herpes and Hands

50 months ago
Good Afternoon, All:

Earlier today, while traveling for business, I visited a "Gay sauna."  While there, I became aroused when the man next to me started playing with himself.  For the most part, we handled our respective joy sticks so to speak; however, towards the end of our encounter he grabbed my penis with his right hand.  He began the masturbation movement but I stopped him. In total, he touched my penis for probably less than 5 seconds and definitely less than 10 seconds.  From what I recall, he masturbated with his left hand but would occassionally grab the base of his penis with his right hand and his penis had no visible sores or lesions.  I would like you to evaluate my risk for hsv on the basis of this brief genital hand genital encounter and to substantiate your reasoning so that I can fully understand.  I am in a long term relationship and feel quite guilty about the encounter. 

Please advise.

Concerned Inquirer 
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
50 months ago
I think your situation presents absolutely zero risk for transmission of herpes..  There  is simply not enough contact nor enough virus shared, if by any chance it might be there, for herpes to be transmitted.  None of us experts have ever seen a case of herpes that has been transmitted via active mutual masturbation and in your situation, even that did not even are for more than a few seconds. Despite what people think, herpes is not that easy to transmit. It takes a certain volume of virus to give it to another person and in addition, the kind of activity that would be needed to rub the virus in very well for a somewhat extended period of time. I think you're safe at this encounter due to short time of the contact, lack of substantial virus present, and lack of the kind of gentle to Genital contact required for transmission. Please let me know what other questions you may have about herpes for this specific encounter. Thank you for seeking out our forum to get accurate information about STI risk.

Terri
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50 months ago
Thank you for your reply, Terri.  I have a few follow up questions:

1) does the fact that this took place in a sauna change your analysis either way?

2) I know the virus dries out quickly but there was a lot of sweat given how hot it was, would this have made the virus more viable/resistant?

3) could you explain the difference between the active masturbation you mentioned and my situation? 

4) based on this experience, is it safe to resume sexual contact with my partner? 

Thank you for your insight thus far! 
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
50 months ago
1.  It really doesn't.  I think I know where you are going with this, that the virus likes to be warm and moist, But I still don't think there was enough contact to cause transmission.
2.  yes, the virus does dry out quickly when off of human cells, but I don't think the heat and sweat makes enough of a difference here for me to be concerned.
3  I don't know if I would make much of a distinction between active masturbation and you're situation except that your situation was so short in duration. Perhaps I put that poorly. What I meant to say was that either anal or vaginal or oral intercourse is the cause herpes transmission, Not mutual masturbation and certainly not in The kind of touching that you describe in your post. I don't know what your herpes status was prior to this encounter and I don't know if you know what your herpes status was prior to this encounter. So I can't say for certain if it is safe to resume sex with your partner in terms of herpes but I do feel that this encounter does not put your partner at any more risk than they were at before this encounter. We have seen couples go 30 or 40 years where one is infected and the other is not, having intercourse many times per week, and still not transmit. So you can see that not every encounter results in herpes transmission, even with anal, oral, or vaginal intercourse.
You have one post to left–feel free to ask any questions that you haven't so far

Terri
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50 months ago
Thank you, Terri. 

I was herpes negative prior to this encounter.  What do you say about resuming sexual contact with my partner on the basis of this information and the described interaction?  Is there a window period that you suggest I wait?  Do you still classify this encounter as absolutely no risk for herpes?  Finally, you briefly went into it but can you please more fully explain: 1) why there is so much information out there suggesting that herpes is easily transmitted? 2) why mutual masturbation, especially genital hand genital contact, is not a risk?

Thank you again!!' 
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
50 months ago
I don't take the position of telling people whether they should resume sex with the regular partner or not after a sexual encounter with a different person because I just don't know enough about every little detail to make that recommendation. However, I will say, that if I was in your situation, I personally would not hesitate to have sex with my husband after that type of interaction. I can't say why there is so much information about herpes being easily transmitted on the Internet in particular, but I suspect that it has to do with people who have acquired herpes who can't nail down a particular incident we're they became infected so they assume it was from some low risk or no risk type of contact. If you read posts on this forum by doctors Hook and Hansfield you will find the same response regarding lack of transmission of sexually transmitted infections via mutual masturbation. In the case of herpes, there is simply not enough exposure to sufficient quantities of virus to cause infection and also there is no mucous membrane involved in the sexual activity you describe. Mucous membrane, be at mouth, anus, or vagina, is particularly susceptible to infection.  While the skin of the penis is not mucous membrane, the normal activities that result in infection of the penis involve mucous membrane as listed above. I hope this is helpful.

Terri

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