question and answer
Type-test HSV in couples
March 2011
I have a female patient with newly diagnosed genital HSV-2. Her long-term male partner has chronic moderate-to-severe hand eczema. What’s the risk of herpetic transmission to his hands, and how can this be minimized, apart from avoiding contact during active lesions? Terri Kremenik, MD, Lethbridge, AB
If this is a long-term monogamous relationship then in all likelihood the male partner has already been exposed to HSV-2 (i.e. was likely the source of infection even if asymptomatic) and occasional exposure to the virus, while possible, would not likely cause cutaneous infections. However, avoiding direct contact during episodes of active disease would reduce this risk. If on the other hand the male partner is HSV-2 naïve then he’s at risk for acquiring primary HSV-2 infection. Type-specific HSV serology testing of the two individuals would help to clarify this status and help guide preventive strategies. In most regions this testing is restricted to certain specialists and laboratories. I’d suggest that you contact your local sexually transmitted diseases clinic for further guidance.
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