Can you get herpes from drinking after somebody? Can you get herpes from sharing towels? From taking a bath with someone? Can you get herpes from blood? Can you get herpes from toilet seats? Can you get herpes from shaking hands or cuddling?
The clear and resounding answer to all of these questions?
You can get herpes only from skin-to-skin contact. You can get herpes even when there are no visible signs of herpes on the skin. It’s known as “viral shedding.” And the kind of skin-to-skin contact we’re talking about is for the most part genital-to-genital or mouth-to-genital (mouth-to-mouth oral herpes is mostly passed when an active outbreak is occurring or is about to occur). Herpes can only be transmitted through easy access into the body, therefore some sort of superficial cut, abrasion or mucous membrane must be present in order to allow access to the virus. And that kind of transmission generally takes place through the rubbing and friction that comes with sex (either oral or genital). The likelihood of passing herpes by simply touching skin is unlikely.
If you abstain from sex during herpes outbreaks, the risk of passing it during herpes dormancy is 3-8% — the risk is greater when passing herpes from male to female (Warren, Terri J. "Counseling Patients With Genital Herpes"). This risk is inherent in all sexual activity, even with condoms since the site of the outbreak/shedding isn’t always covered. For more facts and statistics, download the free e-book and handouts.
Are you worried that you might have contracted herpes? If you’re having a herpes outbreak, go to your doctor to get a swab. It’s helpful to know whether it’s HSV-1 or HSV-2. Soon after contracting herpes you will develop the antibodies to be able to find out which type you have via a herpes blood test. This is a convenient way to find out without having to rush to the doctor during a herpes outbreak.
It’s actually difficult to spread herpes manually from one part of the body to another (also known as auto-inoculation) after your body builds up antibodies after the first 6-12 months since infection. (If your infection is new, just be careful when touching yourself in the area where your initial herpes outbreak occurred and always wash your hands after touching it.)
Keep in mind that for some people, the virus shows up in the exact same spot for every herpes outbreak, while for other people, their outbreaks move around a bit (the virus might use a different nerve pathway — aka "herpes highway — to get to the surface of the skin). For those where it moves around a bit, this is less likely a case of auto-inoculation and more likely because the virus took a different shortcut to the skin. In order for you to manually move the virus to other parts of your body, you’ll need to transfer some of the fluid from within a herpes sore to another part of your body that has an opening (a cut, a mucous membrane). And because of the rapid breakdown of the herpes virus in open air, this would have to be done quickly. To make sure auto-inoculation doesn't happen, simply wash your hands with soap after touching any outbreak (soap kills the virus).
This is a question we see a lot on our Herpes Opportunity community forums. “How did I get herpes? My partner said they didn’t have it. How is this possible?”
Here are a few possible answers to consider …
Ultimately, trying to figure out how you got herpes might just drive you crazy and lead to a whole host of possible conclusions, none of which can be 100% verified. Now starts the process of accepting it and moving on with your life. Talking about it with people who understand you on our Herpes Opportunity community forums is tremendously helpful.