Herpes is, quite possibly, the most common STD in the world. According to the World Health Organization, it has been estimated that 3.7 billion people in the world have herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), while approximately 491 million people have herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).
HSV-1 is typically responsible for oral cold sores, while HSV-2 is associated with genital herpes. However, it’s also possible for HSV-1 to be transmitted during oral sex. With so many people infected, you may wonder whether a guy can have herpes and not know it. Keep reading to learn the answer.
Can you have herpes without symptoms?
It’s actually very common to have asymptomatic herpes. Herpes infections are chronic — once you have herpes, the virus stays in your system for life, even when it’s not causing active breakouts.
However, having herpes and no symptoms doesn’t mean that you can’t transmit the virus to someone else. People with no symptoms of herpes can still shed the virus, according to Planned Parenthood, which can lead to transmission. Other people experience extremely mild symptoms that can be very easy to miss.
According to a study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine, asymptomatic shedding is more common within the first 3 months of an initial HSV-2 infection. And according to the CDC, viral shedding occurs on approximately 10% of days in people with asymptomatic HSV-2 infections.
How many people have herpes and never have a breakout?
It’s hard to know exactly how many people have herpes but no symptoms. But according to Medscape, it has been estimated that 70%-80% of people with a positive herpes test were unaware of their infection.
How long can someone have herpes and not know it?
Since asymptomatic herpes can go undetected, it’s hard to say exactly how long someone can have herpes without knowing. Herpes is a chronic infection and outbreaks typically become less frequent over time; however, there are certain situations that could trigger an outbreak.
Prevention of genital herpes
Since you can transmit the virus if you have herpes and never have symptoms, it’s always important to practice safe sex. People with genital herpes should always use a condom correctly during intercourse, even if they’re not having an active outbreak. Female condoms are also very effective, since they cover a larger surface area than male condoms.
You should also avoid intercourse and intimate contact if you do develop active sores. You and your partner should wait until all the sores have fully healed to reduce the risk of transmission. The good news is that, as long as you take certain precautions, you can lead a normal dating life with herpes.
Get tested for herpes and other STDs
In addition to safe sex, another way to stay protected against herpes and other STDs is to get tested regularly. At-home testing kits allow you to get tested for multiple STDs at once, and you can collect your samples from the privacy of your own home.
You can learn more about at-home STD testing at STDWatch.com now.
Herpes simplex virus - who.int
STD Awareness: Asymptomatic Shedding of Herpes - plannedparenthoodaction.org
Herpes Simplex Clinical Presentation - emedicine.medscape.com