Health Questions and Answers

Question: When is genital herpes contagious?

Answer:

Although the latent virus is always present in an infected individual’s body, spread is by direct contact with the virus at the site of an outbreak. Therefore, the virus can only be spread when a woman has a secondary outbreak or in the days just prior to the eruption of an ulcer. During this pre-eruption period, the patient typically experiences a prodrome of tingling or burning in the affected region. She may also have mild systemic symptoms from the virus. If a woman has no active lesions and is not experiencing a prodrome, she is generally not infectious. Once ulcers are completely healed, they are no longer infectious.

Reference: Stenchever MA, Droegemueller W, Herbst AL, Mishell DR (eds): Comprehensive Gynecology, 4th ed. St. Louis, Mosby, 2001

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