[Question #733] Herpes Transmission

55 months ago
My partner and I lived together for eight years and were very active sexual.  I assumed it was a monogamous relationship.  I left the country for six months and did not have sex, except with myself (masturbation).  When I returned my partner and I reunited and had sex.  Six to eight days later I had a sever breakout of genital herpes which I got confirmed by a doctor.  I don't remember which kind of herpes the doctor said I had, I just remember being counseled on sexual activity and was told that is how the virus is acquired.  I had never had a breakout prior to this and my partner said she had never had a breakout.  There was an active sexual relationship prior to our eight year relationship.  In the  prior sexual relationship, there was unprotected genital rubbing (vagina to penis, penis to vagina), but always used a condom before starting intercourse.  What is the likely hood that the herpes virus could have carried for eight years while being very sexual active together and neither person ever had a breakout during that eight year relationship.  At the end of the eight years we had a six month physical break between each other, reunited had sex and the male in the relationship had his first breakout six days later.   I used the work (likely hood) because I know anything is possible.  The Wright brother flew a plane at Kitty Hawk and nobody thought it was possible and we once thought AID's was a death sentence and look at Magic Johnson today.  I'm looking for your best guess medical evaluation of this scenario.  Hopefully I've explained it well enough. 
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
55 months ago
It would be very good to know which HSV you have - HSV 1 or 2 - genitally.  Do you think you could find out?  These two viruses behave quite differently in the genital area.  Was there oral sex between you, with you as the receiver?  The timing of your outbreak does suggest it may be new infection but without an antibody test, it is very hard to know what happened here.  Do you know what testing was actually done to determine you had herpes?  Swab tests, blood tests?  In terms of your question about could one of you have had HSV for eight years and not transmitted it - that is certainly possible OR it is possible that this outbreak you had was a recurrence and you missed the first infection.  Without knowing the results of any testing that was done (preferably antibody testing), it's very hard to say with any certainty what happened here.  I'm not positive about what you are asking here - is your question really more about could you get this without a third person being sexually involved in the picture?  Is that a concern for you, that your partner had another partner while you were apart for six months?

Terri
---
54 months ago
Hi Terri, when I went to the doctor he just looked at my penis, saw eight to ten sores and blisters and said you have herpes.  Had I known there were more then one type of herpes I would have asked for a test.  I had no swab or blood test.  The doctor didn't even tell me how to combat it, just counseled me on sexual behavior which made me not want to talk to anyone about it.  Yes I was a receiver of oral sex in our relationship.  I've always had canker sore from time to time in my mouth, my partner had never had one.   Neither of us had ever had a cold sore on the outside of our mouth.  If I miss the first infection I would be shocked, because the first one I had that I knew about could not be missed (eight to ten blister) and continued every two months for the next several years and eventually dropped to one or two blister and then stopped all together, but is always on my mind.  So yes my real question was I believed there was a third party being sexually involved in this picture while I was gone for six months,  because my partner and I had been together for eight years and never had a breakout that I knew of.  It sound to me your saying if its HSV 1 may have come from oral sex during our eight year relationship and  if it's HSV 2, a third party most likely was involved?  Can you be tested when you are no longer having breakouts?
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
54 months ago
From your description, it sounds more typical for HSV 2 than HSV 1, with outbreaks every two months for a while.  It is completely possible that there was no other person involved.  When you look at the transmission rates from female to male, having sex twice per week on average with no treatment and no condoms, only about 4 men in 100 will become infected in a year, so you can see that you  could certainly go eight years and not get infected.  But then another person is always a possibility.  Are you still with this person?  Has this been on your mind all this time? 

Yes, you can get a type specific antibody test now - IgG only, to know which type of herpes you have, if indeed you do you have it which sounds likely to me. 

Terri
---
54 months ago
As I said earlier, I know anything is possible, the Wright brother put that airplane in the air, but in your professional opinion which scenario is most likely to have happen, third party involvement or one person carried this virus for eight years before passing it to the other person?  Yes this has been on my mind for forty years, but we are still together forty years later.  Your professional answer regardless of what it is will not change that forty year relationship.   If she told me she made a mistake and there was a third party life would go on, but it might answer a life long question.  I still have a hard time believing two people could just rub genitals together and herpes be past, intercourse without protection I understand, but that supposedly never happen.   What would be the benefit of knowing which type HVS I have.   Thank you for your service in providing information to people that don't know where to turn.  
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
Terri Warren, RN, Nurse Practitioner
54 months ago
If it is HSV 1, then it could have definitely been passed through oral sex without there ever being other people in the relationship.  It would also confirm that you actually do have herpes, though your symptoms are consistent with herpes. 
Rocketman, I'm not going to take a guess here.  I have most assuredly seen couples together for many years , one 30 years, and all of a sudden pass HSV when they didn't even know one person had it and then when testing occurs, it was clear that one person had very well established infection and just hadn't passed it along yet.  When two people are apart for six months, the sex they might have when they first get back together could be prolonged and more extensive and this an trigger an outbreak.  If I were you I would look inside your heart and see what you think actually happened here - was she faithful or was she not.  I'm guessing you already have a good idea about that answer, a answer I could not begin to suggest not knowing anything about either of you. 

Terri
---