How Long Can the Herpes Virus Survive Outside of the Body?

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.

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If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Virus Survival

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

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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, 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.