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Old 02-22-2005, 09:03 AM   #1
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indignation: misinformation about coldsores/herpes?

I have never had cold sores. But a few weeks ago I did have a red painful bump close to my lip. Looking back it was most likely just a zit (it didn't look like anything I've heard about cold sores) but you can't really be sure. Nevertheless, I went to my doctor and asked him to test me for herpes simplex. He refused, saying that more than 99 percent of the population has herpes simplex I, so testing is useless. And because my mother has cold sores, he knows for sure that I'm infected too.
He also told me that you can only transmit herpes when the cold sore is in the blister stage, so kissing and oral sex is safe when you don't have a sore. And he says that you can't infect your eyes, because that's a different kind of herpes (herpes zoster).

But this contradicts everything I've read on the internet! How am I supposed to trust doctors when they don't know what they're talking about! Is he right about 99 percent of people having it? If so, then my boyfriend must have it too (even though he's also never had a cold sore). How likely is that we give each other genital herpes through oral sex? I feel as though I'll never be able to enjoy oral sex now, worrying every time that I might have gotten genital herpes, or given it to my boyfriend. And if so many people have HSV I, how come not more people have genital herpes because of oral sex?
Also, if I've had herpes since I was a kid, I could have infected my own genitals, no? But how would I know? A blood test can't say WHERE the herpes is, and if I don't have outbreaks a swab won't show herpes either...

 
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Old 02-22-2005, 01:52 PM   #2
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Re: indignation: misinformation about coldsores/herpes?

99% is probably too high an estimate. It's probably up to 80% of the population who would test positive for HSV1. You are not guaranteed to have HSV1 if your mother does, although it would be very likely as contrary to what your doctor tells you, herpes is not only passed on during outbreaks. It can also be passed on by asymptomatic shedding, so this virus is often passed on by relatives kissing children when they don't have an outbreak at all.

One thing though: you say your boyfriend has never had a cold sore. This does not indicate whether he has HSV1. For one thing, some people with HSV1 never get cold sores. For another thing, anything up to 90% of those with HSV1 do not recurrent cold sores. A majority of people get one cold sore (usually as a child) and never see an outbreak again. They still have HSV1, and can still pass it on to others, but will often claim not to have had a cold sore! Of course, your boyfriend may well be right, but his memory of having cold sores or not or even the fact he does not give them is not indicative of his herpes status.

Herpes zoster causes chickenpox or shingles. I imagine that it could infect the eye, but HSV1 infections are also quite possible there, so your doctor is wrong on that score as well.

Unfortunately doctors don't always know best. I know a lot more about herpes than a couple of my friends, who are qualified doctors, but then I have taken the time to specifically educate myself about this virus.

Genital HSV1 infections are on the rise as it happens, but if I were you, I would try not to be unduly alarmed. The reasons why more people don't have genital HSV1 are as follows:

1.SO MANY people have oral HSV1. The oral HSV1 means they have antibodies in the blood which will in most cases protect them from genital reinfection. If exposed to an active sore, these antibodies may not work and it is never wise to have sex with an active sore hoping antibodies will protect you!

2. Genital HSV1 infections are often mild and rarely recur after the first outbreak (as with oral HSV1) - although some people are unlucky and suffer more seriously. But, the general pattern is that it is not very serious and many people mistake their genital HSV1 (as many do their genital HSV2) for something less serious e.g. a yeast infection - or else don't notice it at all. And if doesn't come back, they are unlikely to know they are infected...

3. A blood test positive for HSV1 will suggest an oral herpes infection but it could be genital, or in both places, or more unusually, be somewhere else on the body. The point is though that the presumption will probably be an oral infection.

The result of 2 and 3 is that probably more people have genital HSV1 than know about it or is generally reported.

You have to assess the level of risk. If one partner has HSV1 orally and the other does not, there is a danger of passing on HSV1 through oral sex (a small danger also exists even where both partners have HSV1). However the risk is reasonably low if oral sex during outbreaks is avoided.

Where a person suffers from regular HSV1 outbreaks, it might be advisable that they consider suppressive therapy to reduce outbreaks and the chances of transmission as statistically, the more outbreaks a person has, the more likely they are to asymptomatically shed the virus - so the stats say, but some people do not fit the trend.

 
Old 02-22-2005, 02:58 PM   #3
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Re: indignation: misinformation about coldsores/herpes?

maybe 50 years ago 99 percent of the population had it.

Even the 80 percent figure is a bit outdated because people are more aware that coldsores are contagious. Last I heard its like 40-60 percent based on stats gathered.

 
Old 02-22-2005, 03:11 PM   #4
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Re: indignation: misinformation about coldsores/herpes?

The figures tend to vary wildly between socio-economic groups and geographic regions. In the UK, for some reason, it's still probably higher than 60%. People tend to be more fastidious about these things these days though and the rates of oral HSV1 are dropping.

But as the oral HSV1 rates are dropping, the genital rates are rising and even though genital HSV1 is rarely serious, it seems to freak people out a lot!

I read a recent study which said e.g. :

The infection rate with herpes simplex 1 and 2 among Australian women is 79.2% and 11.3% respectively.

It depends who is in the sample, where the study is done etc (e.g. those tested at an STD clinic are more likely to have even HSV1 than a random selection of blood donors).

Last edited by beaker24; 02-22-2005 at 03:18 PM.

 
Old 02-23-2005, 07:25 AM   #5
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Re: indignation: misinformation about coldsores/herpes?

*sigh* Well, I'm not from Australia or the UK. In fact I'm from Belgium ("poor little Belgium" as some countries call us...). I can't imagine that herpes contamination varies that much across countries that it is really is more than 99 percent in Belgium. I'm thinking the doctor said that (and his other wrong statements) to put my mind at rest. Or that he's just ignorant. I didn't bother to contradict him, I don't think I'd have much credibility if I said I knew from the Internet. I know my boyfriend got tested for HSV 2, and he was clear. I'm a bit apprehensive about going to another doctor though to ask for the test (I have had some bad experiences with GP's, they always know things better than me, even when I know they're wrong). Also, my boyfriend thinks I'm freaking out way too much about this herpes thing, so I'm not sure if he'll want to get tested. But he'll probably agree if I look into his eyes very deeply and tell him I love him I don't actually know what kinds of herpes tests are availbale in Belgium, but I guess if my boyfriend got tested for HSV2, there must be a test that can distinguish between the two types...
Worst case scenario is: I might already have HSV1 genitally... (through self-inoculation, or through my boyfriend) Could I get tested for this at a gynaecologist, without having an apparent outbreak?

Tricky business, herpes... I'm hovering between "so what if I have it, I don't have any outbreaks" and "what if I get horrible outbreaks on my genitals? This can't be cured!" Not to mention the relationship with my boyfriend...

I'm trying to get statistics about infection rates through symptomatic shedding, but I can't seem to find any...

 
Old 02-23-2005, 01:07 PM   #6
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Re: indignation: misinformation about coldsores/herpes?

I don't think you should worry too much about HSV1 genitally to be honest. If you want to put your mind at rest, you can be blood tested for HSV1 although I don't know whether a gynaecologist would do this (blood tests for herpes are a bit more difficult to obtain in Europe than in the US).

You may well have HSV1 orally as you have described the red bump, but if anything oral HSV1 should be more concerning than any genital HSV1. Those with oral HSV1 are significantly more contagious than those with the genital kind and will get markedly more outbreaks. People worry about genital herpes but with HSV1 specifically, genital infections usually result from the sufferer receiving oral sex from someone with oral HSV1.

Last edited by beaker24; 02-23-2005 at 01:08 PM.

 
Old 02-23-2005, 02:02 PM   #7
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Re: indignation: misinformation about coldsores/herpes?

your doctor sounds like a crack pot, are you sure he has his medical degree?? You can absolutly spread herpes when the sores are not present. This is called viral shedding. I contracted herpes when there was no sore present, so he can kiss my b-hind! The most consistant stat I've come across is every 1/4 or 1/3 people has a herpes simplex virus. Don't sweat it. Just be informed! Good for you for coming to this site, you won;t get bogus answers to your questions here. Respect your body and try to stay healthy!!

 
Old 02-24-2005, 03:47 AM   #8
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Re: indignation: misinformation about coldsores/herpes?

The red bump I had seemed to be a zit in every way. Only the location made it suspicious.

Anyway, if oral HSV1 is so contagious (even asymptomatically?) I'm pretty sure both my boyfriend and I are infected now. Only way to know is to get tested. (And the stats of herpes infection varying so much, it's hard to know what kind of result to prepare for...)

My boyfriend is totally relaxed about the herpes issue, so relaxed that he promised he wouldn't blame me if I gave him genital herpes. But he also agreed to get tested if I wanted him to.

I'm not afraid of being infected with herpes, I'm just scared about having horrible outbreaks... Some pictures on the web are enough to turn your stomach.


PS: the doctor I went to does have a medical degree. And he's not the first doctor I've gone to who gave misinformation or a wrong diagnosis. Which is why I'm always very sceptical when a doctor tells me anything... And being informed is hard, considering the internet isn't always reliable, and you find so much contradicting info.

 
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