Normal test results do not mean you do not have
a herpes infection.
Herpes is often diagnosed by symptoms and by
knowing whether the person has had contact with an infected person. Sometimes a
test is not needed. A person who has
genital herpes needs to learn how to avoid spreading
the disease, because the disease is more likely to be spread when he or she has
sores. If you have recurrent outbreaks, especially during times of stress or
illness, you can also spread the disease.
You may want to know
whether a herpes infection is due to HSV-1 or HSV-2 so you can take steps to
prevent or treat outbreaks.
A genital herpes infection can be
spread from a mother to her baby during vaginal delivery. In a newborn, herpes
can cause organ failure, brain infection, and death. If active herpes is
present near the time of delivery, a cesarean delivery (C-section) may be done to prevent infecting the
Rapid tests are available at some clinics that check blood
from a finger stick for antibodies to HSV-2. The results are generally ready in
about 10 minutes. These tests are more expensive than other tests and may not
be available everywhere.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). Seroprevalence of herpes simplex virus type 2 among persons aged 14–49 years—United States, 2005–2008. MMWR, 59(15): 456–459. Also available online: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/wk/mm5915.pdf.
Other Works Consulted
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
(2007, reaffirmed 2009). Management of herpes in pregnancy. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 82.
Obstetrics and Gynecology, 109(6):
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis:
Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009).
Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed.
Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby.