The incubation period (or the time it takes from first exposure of the herpes virus to the time you show signs and symptoms) is 2-14 days with the average being 4 days.
Outbreak: The sudden appearance of herpes lesions
Recurrence: Any subsequent reappearance of herpes lesions after a sufferers initial outbreak
Viral shedding: The period of time where herpes is active and can ‘shed’ or pass on the virus
First episode or outbreak signs and symptoms:
-Most do not show symptoms (asymptomatic)
-Multiple and painful blisters and or sores (AKA ‘lesions’) that usually occur in clusters and develop over 7-10 days.
-After herpes lesions occur it is common to experience flu-like symptoms such as aches, headaches and fever
-Area of infection may become itchy and may even produce genital discharge
-The surrounding lymph nodes can become swollen and tender
-Lesions usually heal within 2-4 weeks
-This is when likelihood of transmission is at its highest
Recurrent signs and symptoms:
Prodrome (A prodrome is a syndrome of minor symptoms that occur before the more severe disease/infection presentation). When these symptoms happen you know the lesions are about to recur. The prodrome for about 50% of herpes sufferers include: mild itching, burning or tingling.
Less lesions and not as spread out.
Severity of symptoms are greater in women
Herpes infections with HSV-2 are generally more severe than HSV-1
Viral shedding lasts about 4 days. Healing time is not as long as first episode
How is herpes diagnosed?
The less strict characteristics used to diagnose herpes are:
Presence of dark-field-negative, vesicular (blisters) or ulcerative (sores) genital lesions. Past history of these lesions. Sexual contact with someone with similar lesions
Although signs and symptoms can lead one to believe they have herpes, this can not be definitively concluded without proper lab testing. Proper diagnosis includes various laboratory methods that either culture (grow the virus in a test tube or petri dish) or isolate the virus from your blood or tissue samples.
The following are common lab tests the confirm a diagnosis of herpes:Lab TestExplanationPros ConsTissue cultureThe infected area is swabbed orscraped to attain tissue cells with possibly infected herpes virus. This sample is placed in a liquid growth medium. Culture results take 48-96 hours.The most specific (100%) and sensitive(80%-90%) of confirming a first-episode of genital herpes.
Expensive, time consuming, can lead to false negative if specimens incorrectly handled,SerologicalA blood sample is taken and is analyzed to see if there are herpes simplex virus anti-bodies in your blood. Their presence means you have herpes. Fast and fairly reliable Does not differentiate between the twodifferent types very well (HSV-1 vs HSV-2)PCR AssayPCR stands for ‘polymerase chainreaction.’ It is a method to gain many copies of DNA or RNA very quickly. It’s used to determine the herpes type.Very reliable for determining the typeof herpes virus (HSV-1 or HSV-2) and is the test of choice if CNS infectionis suspected (e.g. HSV encephalitis or meningitis). Not used often.