Herpes Testing

When you engage in intimate relations with another person, you place yourself at risk of contracting herpes or an array of other STDs. Unless you’ve been tested prior to each and every single relationship, there is no possible way of pinpointing the precise person or moment you contracted an STD. That’s why it’s important for couples to realize there is no need in pointing the finger if they have not taken necessary precautions to protect themselves to begin with.

Currently there are five ways to diagnose herpes. It is unlikely that your doctor will know about all of them. It will be to your advantage take information to your your physician’s office when you go for testing. In addition to identifying whether an individual is infected with herpes, a test ideally should also provide 2 other pieces of information: 1) location and 2) the type of herpes simplex (HSV-1 or  HSV-2). Type and location are important for assessing transmission risks (e.g., partners with the same type of HSV are unlikely to contract the same type again. However, they should not rule out the risk of contracting a new type.

Types of Testing:

1. CLINICAL EXAMINATION and an assessment of your symptoms and history are very poor at detecting herpes. HSV symptoms are easily confused with other diseases. This makes it rather easy to get an improper diagnosis on this testing alone.

2. VIRAL CULTURE – Although this test has a high rate of false negatives (~50%), it is the most valid test available. This form of testing requires actie sores and viral fluids for thorough testing. If you get this test, be sure that your doctor requests that the culture be typed (e.g., HSV-1) – most labs will not report type unless specified.

3. POLYMERASE CHAIN REACTION (PCR) – PCR testing also requires the presence of active viral shedding. However, PCR is a more sensitive test than viral isolation and is also type specific. PCR is now available for commercial use but it may not be available at your doctor’s facility.

4. NON-TYPE SPECIFIC BLOOD TEST – Certain types of blood tests, like the older ELISA, will detect herpes, but it can’t distinguish between the two types of herpes simplex (HSV-1 & HSV-2). HSV-2 is the type usually associated with genital HSV infection, while HSV-1 is the type usually associated with oral HSV infection (i.e., cold sores). However, both types of HSV can infect either location. Non-type-specific ELISAs may be useful if patients have no history of HSV infection.

5. TYPE-SPECIFIC BLOOD TESTS – such as the Western Blot, ELISA or Immunoblot test for both HSV-1 and HSV-2 and can distinguish between the two types of HSV. Active viral shedding is not necessary. Visit HerpeSelect for more details and to schedule a test.

Blood tests for the long-term IgG antibodies are generally reliable only after 12 to 16 weeks of infection. All blood tests have an error rate and false negative indications are possible, while false positive indications rarely occur.

Blood Test Information:

For information on the Western Blot, HSV Type-Specific serology, contact the University of Washington Community Services at (206) 598-6066. They can provide information on the test, ordering instructions and interpretation of the test results. http://depts.washington.edu/rspvirus/herpes.htm

Other accurate tests for HSV-2 may also be available through your local healthcare provider. The following are toll-free phone numbers that provide information about the availability of type-specific serologic assays for HSV-2:

Type-Specific ELISA
Focus Technologies 800-838-4548

Anonymous testing:
Online ordering of Focus HerpeSelect

or call 1-800-929-2044. *Affordable and results may be obtained privately via the Internet*

For Quest labs call 1-800-877-7004.

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