Someone without any present lesions can spread this virus through what is known as asymptomatic shedding. Let’s dive into what all this means.
So, you might have heard that you can only contract herpes simplex virus (HSV) when you come into contact with an active breakout.
But, that’s not altogether true. Someone without any present lesions can spread this virus through what is known as asymptomatic shedding.
This means that HSV transmission is not only limited to when someone has a herpes breakout. In fact, spreading HSV without symptoms is quite common as it’s reported to be responsible for 80% of genital herpes cases.
Let’s dive into what all this means -- we’ll share everything you need to know about asymptomatic HSV shedding.
Being what’s called asymptomatic is being infected with a virus, but without showing any signs or symptoms. Transferring a virus while being asymptomatic is what’s called asymptomatic transmission.
Spreading herpes simplex virus without symptoms is very common in the case of both oral and genital herpes. Most people who have HSV are often asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms.
So, most people aren’t even aware they have HSV because they’ve never experienced any herpes lesions -- however, they can still spread the virus through asymptomatic shedding.
Periodically, those with HSV go through a process called “shedding” where their body produces small virus particles that are “shed” via the skin (mouth or genitals).
This also happens while someone has active herpes lesions, but the virus can also silently replicate without any symptoms.
These viral particles can then be potentially transferred to someone else through close contact.
For those with asymptomatic herpes infections, shedding happens 10% of days, versus 20% of days among those with symptomatic infections. In other words, 75% of asymptomatic shedding only lasts for a day, but shedding while you are symptomatic can last longer.
So, shedding happens considerably less often when you are asymptomatic, versus when showing signs of an active lesion breakout.
The danger here is there is no way to know if you’re shedding without visible symptoms -- thus silent spreading can occur.
Decreasing the occurrence of viral shedding is possible through the daily use of antiviral medications. Common antiviral medications such as Acyclovir and Valacyclovir are used to suppress the herpes simplex virus.
Studies have shown with the use of once-daily Valacyclovir the occurrence of viral shedding, both when symptomatic and asymptomatic, was greatly decreased. With asymptomatic viral shedding being decreased by 95%.
Learn more: Protecting Your Partner From Herpes Transmission
Want to reduce the risk of partner-to-partner transmission and reduce viral shedding?
You might want to consider the use of daily antiviral medications like Valacyclovir. Antiviral medications are prescription-only and can only be used under the care of a physician.
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