[Question #206] HSV transmission from a "Feather Tickler"?

36 months ago
This question is on behalf of my fiancée, who seems to be worrying after an incident last night.  We, along with a couple of our friends, went to "Knotts Scary Farm"; which is an amusement park that held a number of scary haunted mazes for the Halloween season. It was in one particular maze, themed after Cowboys and Werewolves, where an actress dressed as a Saloon girl would gently tickle/brush a "feather tickler"(a short stick with light small feathers on the end of it) against the faces of everyone passing by.
Right before my fiancée was about to pass by the Saloon girl, she was distracted by one of the scary actors to her left. As she turned her head back and looked forward, she walked right into the Saloon girl's "feather tickler"-- The feathers got right into her mouth and on her tongue.
My fiancée was furious and worried about catching something since that "feather tickler" had brushed up against so many people; and the park was very very crowded that night. Not to mention, that tickler was brushing up against people's faces, back-to-back, since they had to keep letting people into the mazes due to long waiting lines.
My friends joked about her catching Herpes, but I tried to ease her worry with the knowledge I've learned about the subject. Unforunately, I wasn't able to come up with a definite Yes or No answer. I know you can't get HSV from inanimate objects, and the virus dies very quickly once off the body. However, given the fact that the "feather tickler" brushes up against peoples faces almost back-to-back, I didn't know how to answer her. Though I'm guessing my fiancée might be the only one to get the feathers right into her mouth, since it was an accident. Any input?
The Saloon girl even gently brushed the "feather tickler" against my face, but it was just a light quick brush against my nose; so she wasn't being rough about it. But if those feathers lightly brushed against someone with an active cold sore, would it be enough to transmit inside my fiancée's mouth? She seems to be worried about both Types 1 and 2 of the virus.

I should also add, that my fiancée doesn't have HSV-1 or HSV-2; she gets tested regularly since she's in the Navy. In the nine years that she and I have been together, I've never given her HSV-1. I've had it, probably since 2003, and I never get cold sores(I've only had two in my life, but I'm not even 100% certain they were in fact cold sores). I guess I have a strong immunity.
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
36 months ago
Hi Robert,
I can reassure you that there is zero risk in the situation that you describe for me.  Zero.  I believe that perhaps you overestimate the risk of acquiring herpes infections. 
If you think that with unprotected intercourse and no condoms and having sex twice per week for year, with an infected woman and an uninfected man, only 4 men will get infected in a year, imagine how much less risk this is!  Huge difference.  Huge.  A brush of feathers would never transmit this virus in a million years.  Imagine an average of 15 minutes of intercourse twice a week vs this feather situation - isn't even in the same ballpark.  No chance.  Zero.  And I don't often say zero!
It is almost important for your fiance to know that the screening test for HSV 1 misses 1 out of 4 cases, so if she ever turns up with herpes, she should know that the normal screening test could easily have missed. it.
Let me know if you have further questions.

Terri
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36 months ago
Does hand sanitizer, specifically the foamy soapy ones that nurses/doctors use in hospitals, kill the HSV virus? I was never certain if it contained the same properties that hand soap has that kills the virus.
Is "brief contact" enough to transmit the virus to another person or object? Two examples: I was in public bathroom. After washing my hands, I pulled down a couple sheets of paper towel to dry myself(including my chin that had gotten a small splash of water on it). The trash can directly underneath the paper towel dispenser was very full; with a mountain of used paper towels reaching close to the dispenser. I'm not certain if the paper towels I used made brief contact with that mountain of trash, as I pulled them out of the dispenser. There were other people present in the bathroom, so most of that trash was new.
Second example - I was in a Haunted Maze attraction. There were two people walking slowly in front of me. As we were walking through the maze, I noticed that this long plastic chain, that was hanging down from the ceiling, was brushing up and over the shoulder of the woman in front of me. I reached out and grabbed the top of of the chain, to make sure it wouldn't strike me as it passed over the woman's shoulder. Sure enough, as the bottom of the chain finally went over her shoulder, it swung and smacked me directly on my upper lip. It hit me kind of hard, but not too hard. Just hard enough for me to still feel it after a while. I don't recall if the woman's shirt had her shoulders exposed or not.
As usual, these questions are targeted towards HSV-2. But please bare in mind that I'm not freaking out over theses situations that have recently happened to me, as the knowledge you've given me has greatly helped in getting over my fears. In fact, I had fun posing for photos with strangers on Halloween, and I did not worry about making contact with them at all! I hope my questions also help those who might happen to get involved in the same scenarios as I have.
And my fiancée also thanks you for answering her original question. She is no longer worried about what happened to her :)
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
36 months ago
Yes, it does kill the virus. 
The trash situation presents ZERO risk
The Haunted Maze situation presents ZERO risk
So glad you are making good progress with your herpes fears - Good Job!

Terri
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36 months ago
Can the HSV Virus (1 & 2, but my main focus is on Type 2) transmit through clothing? Example: On Halloween night, I was riding the Trolley home after a fun night in downtown. I was still in my costume -- the scary clown known as "Twisty" from American Horror Story. My outfit was store bought; two piece(long sleeve shirt and pants) both made entirely of 100% polyester. 
A woman approached me, amazed by my costume, and asked if she could have her photo taken with me. I nodded yes, and she asked me to scoot over so she could sit next to me to get a shot of us together. She was wearing a very skimpy outfit, which I assume was her costume -- some sort of plaid school girl/punk top and mini skirt -- and it was quite short.
She took a photo of us and then went back to her seat. I scooted back just a little bit, but stopped myself from scooting all the way since I wasn't sure if the woman even had underwear on. I don't even recall if her skirt was covering her bottom when she sat down or not. Since we were riding on a public Trolley, I would hope she wouldn't sit bare bottom on a seat....but as my Fiancée said,  "You never know how raunchy some women can be".
I'm guessing just a small portion of my outer thigh/butt region was sitting on the area the woman had sat on. I was wearing boxer briefs underneath my pants, but I'm not sure if the rest of my lower thigh area was making contact with her spot as well. 
I recall reading somewhere that the HSV virus can't wiggle it's way through clothing, but I figured I'd verify with you. Especially since this incident involves potentially sitting on the virus, and I don' t know if 100% polyester clothing makes any difference.
With the information you've given me about HSV, I'm making an educational guess that the answer to my question is "No". I'm guessing only a little bit of the virus would be left on the seat, and the volume of it would not be enough to transmit, especially through clothing. Am I correct? Just testing  my knowledge :) I can't imagine catching anything just from sitting down on a seat, anyways.
And by the way, my father's prostate surgery was a complete success! He can finally urinate on his own, and doesn't have to wear those painful catheters anymore. Next I'll have to take him in for eye surgery so he can see straight. He also says, "Hello!"
Thank you so much for all your help!
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
36 months ago
HSV can not be transmitted via clothing, no.  So your knowledge is perfect, Robert!
So glad you dad made it through his surgery successfully and that he doesn't have to have a catheter.  Say hi back!

Terri
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