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The virus that causes herpes comes in two forms. Herpes simplex 1 (HSV1) causes herpes sores (cold sores) around the mouth and on areas above the waist. Herpes simplex 2 (HSV2) is genital herpes and causes herpes sores below the waist. The virus is transmitted by exposure to the herpes blister or bodily fluids of an infected individual. HSV2 can be contracted through oral, anal and vaginal sex, and HSV1 can be transmitted through kissing or any contact with a herpes sore.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
According to the Mayo Clinic and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), viruses are very sensitive to environmental conditions surrounding them and generally do not live outside of the body for very long. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that the herpes simplex virus may be able to live on surfaces for up to a few hours outside of the body. Be sure to cover any areas of broken skin that may allow a virus to enter your body.
Hot Tubs and Swimming Pools
Cold Sore on the Back of the Neck
The herpes virus does not adapt well in chlorinated water, so the likelihood of catching herpes in a hot tub or swimming pool that is properly maintained is unlikely. Shower before and after entering a hot tub or pool to avoid exacerbating any skin conditions. Avoid entering hot tubs or swimming pools with open herpes sores or skin breaks as a precautionary measure.
Toilets and Other Surfaces
According to drmirkin.com, it may possible (although unlikely) to contract the herpes virus from toilet seats or other plastic seating areas if the conditions are just right. If you have broken skin and it comes into contact with the live HSV virus on the surface, it may be possible to contract the herpes simplex virus in this manner. Because herpes simplex can live outside of the body for a short period, use toilet coverings in public bathrooms whenever possible, and avoid contact with skin in any public seating area.
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- McQuillan G, Kruszon-Moran D, Flagg EW, Paulose-Ram R. Prevalence of herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2 in persons aged 14–49: United States, 2015–2016. NCHS Data Brief. 2018;304.
- Tronstein E. Genital Shedding of Herpes Simplex Virus Among Symptomatic and Asymptomatic Persons With HSV-2 Infection. JAMA. 2011;305(14):1441. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.420
- World Health Organization (WHO). Herpes simplex virus. Updated January 31, 2017.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital Herpes - CDC Fact Sheet (Detailed). Updated January 31, 2017
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Genital Herpes - CDC Fact Sheet. Updated August 28, 2017.
- Chun H, Carpenter R, Macalino G, Crum-Cianflone NF. The role of sexually transmitted infections in HIV-1 progression: A comprehensive review of the literature. Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 2012;2013(176459):1-15. doi:10.1155/2013/176459
- Heslop R, Roberts H, Flower D, Jordan V. Interventions for men and women with their first episode of genital herpes. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Aug 30;(8):CD010684. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD010684.pub2
- Jin F, Prestage GP, Mao L, Kippax SC, Pell CM, et al. Transmission of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 in a prospective cohort of HIV-negative gay men: the health in men study. J Infect Dis. 2006 Sep 1;194(5):561-70.
- Schulte JM, Bellamy AR, Hook EW 3rd, Bernstein DI, Levin MJ, et al. HSV-1 and HSV-2 seroprevalence in the united states among asymptomatic women unaware of any herpes simplex virus infection (Herpevac Trial for Women). South Med J. 2014 Feb;107(2):79-84. doi:10.1097/SMJ.0000000000000062
Robin McDaniel is a writer, educator and musician. She holds a master's degree in higher educational leadership from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton as well as a bachelor's degree in elementary education. She is pursuing a Ph.D. in adult in community education. McDaniel enjoys writing, blogging, web design, singing and playing bass guitar.