Herpes Simplex Test

Herpes Simplex Test-Why am I having this test?

Herpes simplex test is used to check for an infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two common types of HSV:

  • Type 1 (HSV1) often causes cold sores on or around the mouth and sometimes on or around the eyes.
  • Type 2 (HSV2) is a sexually transmitted infection that causes sores in and around the genitals.

You may need to have an HSV test if:

  • Your health care provider thinks that you may have an HSV infection.
  • You have a weakened body defense system (immune system) and you have sores around your mouth or genitals that look like HSV eruptions.
  • You have sex with multiple partners, or your partner has genital herpes.
  • You are pregnant, have herpes, and are expecting to deliver a baby vaginally in the next 6–8 weeks.

What is being tested?

There are two types of herpes simplex tests:

  • Blood test. This test checks the sample for:
    • HSV antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that your body makes to help fight infection. This test checks whether antibodies against HSV are in your blood.
    • HSV antigens. This checks for the presence of the HSV virus (antigen) in your blood.
  • Culture test. This test checks for the virus in a sample of fluid from an open sore. Culture tests take several days to complete but are very accurate.

What kind of sample is taken?

Samples will be collected according to the type of tests your health care provider orders.

  • For the blood tests, a blood sample is usually collected by inserting a needle into a blood vessel.
  • For a culture test, the sample is usually collected by swabbing the fluid that is coming from an open sore during an active infection (outbreak).

How are the results reported?

Your test results will be reported as either positive or negative. For this test, normal results are:

  • Negative for HSV virus or antibodies in your blood.
  • Negative for HSV virus in cultured fluid.

Sometimes, the test results may report that a condition is present when it is not present (false-positive result).

Sometimes, the test results may report that a condition is not present when it is present (false-negative result).

What do the results mean?

  • A positive result may indicate that you have an active HSV infection. The presence of HSV1 or HSV2 antigens or antibodies in your blood may indicate an active HSV infection.
  • A negative result means that you do not have HSV1 or HSV2 virus in your blood. This may mean that you do not have HSV infection.

Talk with your health care provider about what your results mean.

Questions to ask your health care provider

Ask your health care provider, or the department that is doing the test:

  • When will my results be ready?
  • How will I get my results?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What other tests do I need?
  • What are my next steps?

Summary

  • You may have this test if your health care provider suspects that you have a herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection.
  • Type 1 (HSV1) often causes cold sores on or around the mouth and sometimes on or around the eyes. Type 2 (HSV2) is a sexually transmitted infection that causes sores in and around the genitals.
  • The test may be done using a blood sample or a sample of fluid from an open sore.
  • A positive result may mean that you have an active HSV infection. A negative result means that you probably do not have an active infection. Talk with your health care provider about what your results mean.
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