[Question #565] question

39 months ago
Hello doctors,

I did something foolish and am hoping that you can provide some reassurance. I've read many of your posts on medhelp and here and I think I know my answer, but wanted to present my situation.

I'm in my 30s, in a long-term relationship. I've been tested for all STDs prior to entering my long-term relationship. I have zero STDs. I do get cold sores (HSV-1 positive) but am HSV-2 negative.

2-3 days ago, I met a married woman and ended up fingering her for about 2-3 minutes and received very brief, maybe a minute or two, of unprotected oral. I didn't feel comfortable with what I was doing so we stopped. Afterwards, this woman did reveal to me that she is HSV-2 positive (genital), but that she is not currently experiencing an outbreak, and that she abstains from all sexual contact when she has an outbreak and a week following. She has a 10 month old child and told me that she was tested for all STDs (related to the pregnancy) and is negative, expects for HSV-2.

My questions:


1.) In the past, Dr. Handsfield, in the context of fingering, when asked about Herpetic Whitlow concerns, has replied: "I have never heard of this happening.  Even if you knew for certain your partner had genital HSV-2, I wouldn't worry about it." Does the same apply here? 

2.) No worries about the brief oral? From what I am reading it sounds like this was essentially a no-risk situation.

3.) Because my fingers came into contact with her vagina, am I in any way putting my own 10-month old child at risk?

4.) Can I forget about this and move on?

Thank you.
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
39 months ago
Welcome to the forum. Thanks for your qeustion, and for reviewing other similar ones in preparing for it. I think you have correctly predicted my responses.

The chance of HSV2 transmission during any single episode of sexual exposure to a heterosexual partner with known HSV2, when not having an outbreak, seems to average about one in a thousand. (More specifically, in monogamous couples in which one person has HSV2, having unprotected vaginal sex an average of 2-3 times a week, transmission occurs in about 5% -- i.e. one in 20 couples -- every year. If you do the math, you'll see it works out to around once for every 1,000 events.) That's for vaginal sex, which in most cases probably lasts several minutes. Your risk is a lot lower than that, given its brevity and that the virus is far less likely to take hold on the dry, highly cornfied skin of the fingers compared to more delicate genital tissues.

In the exceedingly unlikely chance you caught HSV2 of a finger (whitlow), it should be very obvioius soon. I doubt asymptomatic infection of a finger ever occurs. If no painful pimple-like sore of an exposed finger within 5 days or so, you can consider yourself home free.

1,3) You correctly site my previous experience and what I have replied in other questions. There is no realistic chance you caught herpes of your fingers or that you are putting your chilid at risk of HSV2 as a result of this event.

2) Oral HSV2 is a lot less frequent than genital, even in persons with gential HSV2, and it is extremely rare for HSV2 to be transmitted oral to genital. The risk of other STDs (gonorrhea, nongonococcal urethritis, herpes due to HSV1) undoubtedly is higher -- but given your description of your partner, it sounds unlikely she has any active STD, oral or otherwise. If no symptoms (penile sores or discharge) in the next few days, you needn't worry further.

4) Yes, indeed, you can "forget about this and move on". Don't give it another thought.

I hope this has helped. Best wishes--  HHH, MD

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39 months ago
Thank you so much for this! I just have a couple of follow ups-

1.) We kissed (open mouthed) and today, 2 days after this event feel like I might be coming down with a tiny cold. No worries?
2.) I touched my penis with the same hand that touched her vagina. Also no worries?
3.) And the "5 days and you're home free" comment of yours.. 5 days from today or 5 days from the event? (I just want to mark my calendar lol)

Ok that about does it and thanks again doctor!
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
H. Hunter Handsfield, MD
39 months ago
Thanks for the thanks. I'm glad to have helped.

1) As noted above, it is unlikely she had oral HSV2, so no concern there. Any kiss can risk transmission of a cold, but I see no reason to be concerned about anything else. Herpes and other STDs don't usually cause cold symptoms.

2) No concern. It is rare if ever that such indirect exposure transmits HSV or any other STD.

3) 5 days after exposure.
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