Re: Can you get herpes from social contact?
Well it's good to hear that people are becoming more aware of herpes but it's sad to hear that it's just scaring and confusing you without informing you too. But it does get a bit complicated so some of this will be a bit over-simplified.
First of all, cold sores *are* herpes; specifically (usually) Herpes Simplex Virus Type-1 (HSV-1). It's very similar to genital herpes (HSV-2) so there's little difference between them. Because of the stigma associated with genital herpes (which is usually transmitted through sexual contact), "cold sores" or "fever blisters" are not always called "herpes" but they are, usually refered to as "oral herpes."
Oral herpes is usually contracted from kissing family, relatives and friends, and is usually caught in childhood, so it doesn't have the same stigma attached to it. However, they are also very contagious and can be transmitted to mouth or genitals during sexual contact. So what starts out as oral herpes can become genital herpes for the other person through mouth-to-genital contact.
I know this is confusing. <IMG SRC="http://www.healthboards.com/ubb/round.gif"> What you need to remember is that it is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with an area that is shedding the virus (in your sister's case, the mouth) but it's highly unlikely to get through casual contact. I don't think there is a documented case of it being caught from a toilet seat, for example, although you could get it by kissing someone who has it on their mouth and who is in a contagious phase.
Second thing: A big part of the confusion and difficulty with herpes is that you don't always know when you're contagious. Not everyone gets outbreaks (blisters, rash, etc.) or other symptoms (flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph glands, itching or tingling at the outbreak site, etc.). In fact, most people who have herpes don't realise they have it because they don't get symptoms (or no symptoms that they recognise as being herpes.) However, about 50-80% of the population has oral herpes, and about 1 in 4 people has genital herpes. (hence my nickname)
If you have herpes, though, you have it for life. There is no cure. You can control the symptoms to varying extents (that's the treatments you hear about) but you always have it and can potentially pass it on to others. Most of the time (for most people) the virus is dormant and the person is not contagious, but sometiems the virus becomes activated (which may or may not result in a blister) the person can be contagious.
If you really want to find out if you have it, you can take a blood test but it won't tell you *where* you're likely to be shedding the virus when it's active. However, if you're in a monogamous, committed relationship and neither of you gets outbreaks, I wouldn't worry about being diagnosed.
I hope that helps! I know it's complicated, but I hope this helps a bit. There are some great sites around that have good information about it, as well as the posts on this forum of course.
[This message has been edited by TheOneInFour (edited 10-07-2002).]<p>[This message has been edited by TheOneInFour (edited 10-07-2002).]