[Question #292] Herpes

35 months ago
Hi Experts

My question is more geared to Terri but thank you to anyone who answers. I've read others questions and tried to gather information but i would like to ask some of my own concerns and questions. I am aware of how herpes is transmitted. You have all been helpful in explaining that. I do have some 'what if' questions. I currently work in health care as well with some not a lot of direct patient care. Can herpes (either kind) be transmitted through casual contact while taking care of a patient if they touch you? recently I encountered a very old gentleman who thought I was pretty and he thought it was ok to try and touch my face with his hand.  Hypothetically - if he had been hanging out in a chair, climbed into the bed (obviously wasn't touching himself ) hand his hands down on the bed and blankets, could herpes be transmitted this way if he briefly touched my face or lip? i didn't notice any obvious oozing cold sores and I have no idea when the last time he went to the bathroom and may have touched himself. Can herpes remain on people's hands if they touch themselves for bathroom purposes and then shake your hand or like I mentioned touching a face ? Would you have any concern? I guess this can happen to anyone with someone accidentally hitting/brushed your face. 
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
35 months ago
No, herpes is not transmitted in the way that you describe.  It take a lot more virus than one might imagine to get herpes.  People often worry about touching a cold sore or touching a genital lesion and then touching some part of their body, like their mouth or their genital but herpes is just not spread in that way.  Imagine if there was a couple where the woman was infected with genital HSV 2 and the man was not and they had sex 100 times in a year and there were 100 couples doing this, having sex 100 times in a year.  Only 4 men would get infected.  So even with that kind of exposure, very few get infected.  Compare that kind of exposure to what you are talking about - you can see that the risk would be ultra low.  I think you can take this off your worry list.

Terri
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35 months ago
Thanks Terri for the info. It's just something that had crossed my mind since my patients hands sometimes come into close contact with my face when i am helping them turn and move around. Would the same go for if you are holding a baby and their hands are in their mouths and they smack you? I guess I'm just curious if a kid who touched an adults face with active HSV- on their face then you hold the baby and their hands hit you on the face/lips? Curious if that could ever be a possible way of transmission. I know you have said herpes doesn't live off the body but does that mean it can survive on someone's hands? Too far fetched perhaps? From the information I've gathered from reading others posts that acquiring herpes (both types) has to be skin to skin contact (and lots of contact at that)? One other question someone asked was about hsv 2 through saliva. You stated no - does that stand for hsv-1 as well? Some people tend to have spit/little droplets come out when talking. And lastly since I'm sure I'm out of questions but in what way can someone jjust continue to remain hsv free? Seems like myself and others tend to worry about acquiring it in an unconventional way. Thank you for your time. 
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
35 months ago
It takes a certain quantity of virus to infection someone (more than you might think) AND it takes an open portal in the skin to get in.  Even if a baby touched your face with their hand after touching a herpes lesion, there would have to be lots of virus on their hand (unlikely) AND there would have to be an open area on your skin for that large of amount of virus to get in.  Both are extremely unlikely.  That's why this is a disease of either sex ( lots of both there) or intense kissing or kissing with a cold sore.  The conditions are just not right for people to get this in other ways.  And certainly, people can remain herpes free for their lifetimes. 

Terri
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35 months ago
Does that go for food as well? If a kid (with no visible cold sore) had their hands or a fork in the food and you came next not knowing it was touched that wouldn't really be a means of transmission correct?
35 months ago
Thanks for going over this Terri. There's an anxiety here with the contraction of the virus. I had a co worker who has a healing cold sore some over and touch my hand held planner. Even if she had touched her mouth then touched it and I came by and grabbed it afterwards there still wouldn't be enough virus on the notebook to make any sort of infection correct? I didn't think twice after it until I had my planner and later on noticed I was scratching my hand and thought some how from me grabbing my booklet after here there would be some random way of transmission? Thank you for your time. 
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
35 months ago
good morning Jenna,
Yes, I can feel your anxiety about contracting the herpes virus.  Correct, the food situation that you describe is not a risk for transmission and neither is the experience with the co-worker with a cold sore.  It's just not transmitted as easily as I think you might be thinking.  It takes a lot more contact, direct contact, with an open portal of skin or mucous membrane on the receiving end for this virus to be spread from one person to another person.   I think you are really starting to understand the kinds of situation that present risk and those that do not.  

Terri
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35 months ago
Good information to have. And assuming scratching your skin(making it red) but not obviously having it bleed open and then a few minutes later return to normal color wouldn't be consider an open portal?
35 months ago
Sorry for the last comment Terri. I just re-read your response. Yes there was no direct skin to skin contact with the notebook and since it's an inanimate object there's no risk if I had touched it and and scratched my hand correct? Appreciate your responses and patience. Interested in being more educated. 
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
35 months ago
Correct, Jenna, you scratching your hand without having the skin be open is not a risk in this situation.

Terri
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