About 1 out of 6 adults in the United States have antibodies to HSV-2, the virus typically linked to genital herpes.1
A herpes infection cannot be
cured. After you become infected with HSV, the virus stays in the body for
life. It "hides" in a certain type of nerve cell and causes more outbreaks of
sores in some people. Recurring infections can be triggered by stress, fatigue,
sunlight, or another infection, such as a cold or flu. Medicine can relieve
symptoms and shorten the length of the outbreaks, but medicine cannot cure the
A different herpes virus (called varicella zoster)
Why It Is Done
A test for herpes may be done
- Find out whether HSV is causing sores around the mouth or in
the genital area.
- Find out which virus type (HSV-1 or HSV-2) is
causing sores around the mouth or in the genital area.
- Find out
whether the sex partner of a person with genital herpes may be infected with
- Diagnose a herpes infection in a newborn baby whose mother has
How To Prepare
If you may have
genital herpes, do not have sexual contact until your
test results are back. You can lower the chance of spreading the disease to
How It Is Done
For a viral culture, viral antigen test, or PCR test, a clean cotton swab is rubbed against a herpes sore
to collect fluid and cells for examination. Samples may be collected from the
vagina, cervix, penis, urethra, eye, throat, or skin. Doctors usually collect a
sample from small sores that are only a few days old. Viruses are more likely
to be found in small newly formed sores.
For an antibody test, the health professional drawing blood
- Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to
stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is
easier to put a needle into the vein.
- Clean the needle site with
- Put the needle into the vein. More than one needle stick
may be needed.
- Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with
- Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is
- Put a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as
the needle is removed.
- Put pressure on the site and then put on a
How It Feels
You are likely to feel some mild
discomfort or pain when the sores are scraped to collect a sample for
The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An
elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel
nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.