[Question #198] Herpes Type 2 from Public Soap Dispenser?

36 months ago
My question involves a situation I had yesterday: I was at a family owned Pizza Restaurant with my girlfriend and her son. Her son had to use the bathroom, so I escorted him inside and stood watch while he used the toilet. As I was waiting, I decided to wash my hands.The bathroom had one soap dispenser installed on the wall. It's the kind you press with the lower part of your palm, and it dispenses soap onto your hand.(I've uploaded two photos to give you an idea of what type of soap dispenser it is). Now the thing is I have long fingers -- whether that's a gift or a curse I don't know :P, but unfortunately as I was pushing the soap dispenser with the bottom of my palm, my finger tips made contact with the upside/inner portion of the dispenser. I immediately started to rub the soap all over my hands and wash them in the sink. I guess I should also note that the sinks's faucet is the kind where you have to press down and it dispenses water for like five seconds, and you have to continue pressing it to get more water. I've also uploaded a photo of that type of faucet, but the one I used only had one pushed down button which dispersed room temperature to cool water.So my question is -- can I contract HSV-2 on my fingers from touching the the upper-inner portion of the soap dispenser? Would rubbing soap and washing my hands, immediately after touching it, kill the virus? There are no cuts on my finger tips or hands. The webs between my fingers and knuckles are little dry, but no broken openings. I guess I'll also mention that I touched the soap dispenser with my left hand, and the push down faucet button with my right fingers/palm. I ask this question because sometimes, due to long fingers, I accidentally touch the upper/inner portion of soap dispensers. And normally, there are other people present using that same dispenser before I do, but I'm guessing it's not often that people touch the upper portion of the dispenser like me.
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
36 months ago
Hi Robert,I think it's great that you reached out for an answer to your question from professionals rather than just worrying about it for a long time.
So NO you cannot get HSV 2 in the way that you describe.  HSV 2 is a sexually transmitted infection and not one that is passed through inanimate objects such as the situation that you describe above.  The only inanimate objects that I have any concerns about are sex toys and that concern is only extended to the time during which they are actively being used between partners and body parts.  I think there is genuine confusion in our society about how easily herpes it transmitted ( and not transmitted) between people.  A recent research study found that a certain amount of virus is required to infect another adult and it isn't as small an amount as you might think.  Plus herpes virus is surrounded by a lipid (or fat) layer, which is easily destroyed by soap - that is one of the specific functions of soap, to destroy lipid layers.  So you have lots of reasons to believe that you did not contract herpes in this way.  First, if the very last person who touched the soap dispenser happened to have herpes virus on their hands (and that's not likely) and they touched the soap dispenser, there would be very little virus on their hands and once it got on the cold metal dispenser, it would likely die because it likes to be warm and cozy and have human cells in which to replicate.  So that doesn't meet the volume of virus requirement and it doesn't have the cozy environment in which to live.  Then the next thing that happens is you come along and right away, you apply soap and water and rub your hands together.  So you've got soap destroying any tiny amount of virus that might be there (though I doubt there was any to begin with).  As you can see, there is virtually no chance at all, with that combination of circumstances, that you would get herpes on your hands. 
I hope this resolves your concerns about the soap dispenser.  And by the way, you sound like a nice guy to go with your partner's son to the restroom.  Good for you.

Terri
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36 months ago
Thank you for your thorough response. You've absolutely helped resolve my concerns with the soap dispenser -- though it was made mainly of plastic and not metal, but I'm guessing that doesn't matter since they're both inanimate materials. 
Since we're on the topic of restrooms, I figured I'd ask a couple more questions that I could never find definitive answers to. The first question: Is HSV-2 in urine? I sometimes wondered this when I'd have to clean my toilet. Especially sine I've been cleaning it for many years without gloves. I live with my Father, who is turning 65 next year. He always uses the guest bathroom, which is next to my room, instead of the one in the master bedroom. So since we share the same bathroom, I've always questioned old urine stains I'd see on the top rim of the toilet bowl(The area just below the toilet seat). I never thought my Father had HSV-2, but I recently asked him just out of curiosity.  I also felt it was important to ask since I caught him using my loofah, earlier this month. But as it turns out, my Father has never been with another woman since my Mother, which was back in 1985 -- the year I was born. As far as I can remember, my parents have never been "together". They separated sometime after I was born, but stayed married so I would grow up with both parents.  I also learned that my Father always sits down when he urinates; which means the toilet seat is always down when he goes to the bathroom; which would also mean that that the urine stains on the top rim of the toilet bowl are mine!!(I stand up when I urinate) It's an embarrassing admission on my part, but I found it humorous to realize that I was being grossed out about myself :P It's hard to control where urine splashes when you stand up to use the bathroom :/
So this leads to my second question: Is it possible to have HSV-2, from the 1980's to present 2015, and not know it? My father said he had developed a  rash around his groin area, sometimes in the 1980's. He had it examined by a doctor who said it wasn't herpes, and most likely a reaction from some really strong soap  my Father used called "BOLD". My Mother was also a virgin at the time when he met her, so he knew he didn't catch anything from her. But since then, my father has never had any symptoms or issues in the groin area. Wow, my father hasn't had sex since the 1980's. Poor guy :(
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
36 months ago
Urine is not a carrier of herpes virus, so no worries there.
While a person could have herpes for many years, your dad's situation doesn't sound like it fits this concern at all.  A single rash in the groin area could be many things, but most often, a fungal infection. 
It sounds like you and your dad are close, that's great.  And yes, poor guy no sex since the 1980's.  Yikes!
Best, Robert.

Terri
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36 months ago
Is human poop a carrier of the HSV-2 virus? If so, can it still survive even if it's been submerged in toilet water for longer than ten seconds? I understand that the virus can't survive without human cells, outside the body, but can it survive if it managed it get on human waste(feces)? Does any type of water help to keep the virus alive?
Is HSV-2 in blood?
And finally, can HSV-2 survive in sweaty underwear and clothes that have been inside a clothes hamper? Even if it's been in there for hours/days.
That wraps up all the questions I had in relation to the Herpes Type 2 Virus. Next week my Father will be under going prostate surgery, and then he'll have another surgery some time in November. So I'll be busy taking care of him for quite a while. I figured I'd ask these final questions just in case anything pops up while I look and clean after him.
So in a nutshell - HSV-2 is only transmitted through direction skin-to-skin/genital-to-genital sexual contact, and not from casual everyday contact with non-living objects.
Thank you for taking the time to read and answer my questions. You've greatly helped me in getting over the little anxiety I was having. Take care!
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
36 months ago
Poop is not a carrier of HSV 2, no. 
Herpes can be in blood, but very rarely.  It might be in the bloodstream with a brand new infection for a brief period and it might be in the blood of a severely infected newborn.
Herpes cannot survive  in a laundry hamper for all but the briefest moment. 
Yes it is only a STI and it not transmitted through non-living objects except perhaps sex toys while actively involved in sex or perhaps, rarely, through sharing of lipsticks.
It is good of you to take care of your dad and I think you can truly put herpes worries aside.   I'll bet many people reading this wish so much that they still had a dad to care for.

Terri
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