Contrary to common wisdom on the subject, it appears genital herpes sufferers may actually be more contagious than previously thought.
Only 10 to 25% of sufferers are aware they are infected with the condition, and a new study reveals that the condition is transmissible even when infected individuals are asymptomatic. Even in the absence of lesions, new research shows, the virus is present and contagious. The study, published in Journal of the American Medical Association, involved nearly 500 participants who had tested positive for the virus. Participants performed daily genital swabs, yielding over 28,000 samples for study.
On 20% of days in the 410 symptomatic participants, the virus was detected, compared with 10% of days in those with no symptoms. Fred Wyand, spokesman for the American Social Health Association, called the data “robust,” and commented on the large number of people spreading the virus without even knowing they’re infected:
“Most people don’t know they have it,” Wyand said. They may even have symptoms, but not recognize what they are.
“They could be mild symptoms or they may attribute it to something else: chafing, jock itch, yeast infections,” he explained.
Doctors say that condom use, antiviral medication such as Valtrex, and disclosing a herpes infection to partners are proven to reduce the likelihood of herpes transmission “by 30 to 50 percent.”