[Question #7205] Genital Herpes

7 months ago
How long does a newly-shed genital herpes virus stay alive on the outside of a new host's body?  Can newly-shed viruses linger on a new host's skin for more than 12 hours and still be spread to another person? Or is the virus only shed to a third, new person when the second person's body begins shedding?

And on that note, should showering remove any lingering shed viruses on the person's skin?
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
7 months ago
I'm not sure what you are referring to with the "newly-shed" virus. And the kind of skin matters.  Viral shedding episodes can last from a few hours to a few days.  Showering may or may not remove virus from the genital tract - it is NOT reliable to think that it does.  The herpes virus does not live on skin surfaces that are thick, like buttocks or thigh or belly.  Can you clarify your question?

Terri
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7 months ago
Genital/mouth skin - If someone (unknowingly) just recently acquired herpes (in either of these areas), how long does it take for the virus to begin replicating and shedding? Does it need to reach the trigeminal/sacral ganglia in order to begin shedding or can the host be infectious (or be shedding) before lies dormant in the nerve?

In other words: A. How long after getting the virus does it take the body to begin shedding or becoming contagious? and B. Does you body need to begin shedding/replicating the virus in order for you to be contagious?
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
7 months ago
We don't have that exact data and I don't know how we would ever get it, but I would GUESS within hours or maybe a couple of days.
And yes, your body needs to be replicating virus for you to shed virus, that's correct. 

Terri
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7 months ago
As I understand, there are other more well-studied viruses (i.e. the flu, covid-19, etc.) which it is known whether someone can be infectious during the incubation period and before the initial outbreak of symptoms, but it sounds like each virus is too unique to make an inference/educated-guess about how herpes behaves during that time-window, is that correct? If the virus was recently spread onto a person's lips/genital area, have you ever heard of them being contagious if they kiss or have intercourse with another person (because the virus is still active and on their skin, even if it hasn't incubated yet)? How quickly does it get under the epidermis and make its way to the nerve?
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
7 months ago
I don't know what you mean by the incubation period but perhaps you mean could you be infectious before you have symptoms.  If that is your question, the answer is most definitely.  We do know that it takes anywhere from 2-10 days from infection to get an initial outbreak.  We simply don't have data on how quickly it gets into the skin and makes it's way to the nerve.  This seems a very important distinction to you but unfortunately, we just don't know all the answers that you seek.  I'm sorry.

Terri
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7 months ago
If we don't have data on that process yet then how is it known that you are most definitely infectious before you have symptoms? I thought that it needs to reach the nerve in your body for you to even become infectious in the first place.
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
7 months ago
Because I personally have had cases of people who were documented to transmit before they themselves had any symptoms of a new infection.  I'm afraid that's as detailed as I can get here about your question.  I would suspect that the timeline there is very tight between getting infected themselves, transmitting to a third party and then developing symptoms.

Terri
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