How Accurate Are Blood Tests For Herpes
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, nearly every person in the United States about 85% of the population will be infected with herpes by the time they reach their sixties. If youve ever had one of those annoying cold sores on your tongue, youve already experienced an HSV outbreak. For most people, the herpes simplex virus will never present any lasting or major symptoms but for people who become infected with genital herpes, a common STI which causes painful sores and flu-like symptoms, the virus is a serious medical issue which needs to be managed with antiviral medication. Of course, in order for herpes to be managed effectively, it needs to be diagnosed first but just how accurate are our current testing methods? In this article, our Baltimore clinical malpractice attorneys will explain how herpes is diagnosed, which tests are most accurate, and what to do if you or your partner was the victim of a herpes misdiagnosis.
When Should I Get A Genital Or Oral Herpes Test
Testing for the viruses that cause genital and oral herpes may be ordered when a patient develops signs and symptoms of a herpes infection. Although many people who contract HSV never notice symptoms, signs of an initial infection appear 2 to 20 days after infection and depend on the type of HSV causing the infection.
When signs and symptoms of an initial infection occur, they may include:
- Small sores on the skin
- Tingling, itching, or burning on the skin
- Fever, headache, or body aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
After the initial infection, HSV remains dormant inside of the body. HSV can reactivate throughout a patients life, causing symptoms of genital or oral herpes to reappear. While the trigger for an HSV outbreak is often unknown, potential triggers include a fever, stress, physical trauma, and a suppressed immune system.
Generally, expert organizations do not recommend herpes testing for patients without symptoms. An exception may be made for certain patients, including:
- Patients who have a partner with genital herpes
- Patients seeking a more complete STD test panel, including people with multiple sexual partners
- Babies born to a mother who has HSV
How Accurate Are The Herpes Tests
It can be incredibly stressful to wonder if you have herpes. Thats true whether youre concerned because of symptoms because you know youve just been exposed, or for any other reasons. One way to determine whether or not you have genital herpes or oral herpes infection is to get a herpes test.
Many people have questions about how accurate herpes tests are. The truth is that herpes blood tests work reasonably well, but no test is perfect.
As with all herpes viruses, once an individual is infected with the herpes simplex virus, or HSV, he or she is infected for life. The presence of antibodies against herpes simplex means an individual is currently infected with the virus.
The accuracy of a herpes blood test depends on two things: how many people in the tested population have herpes and which specific test was used.
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What To Expect From An Hsv
HSV-2 testing should be conducted between four and six weeks after potential exposure.
When the body is infected with HSV-2, it produces antibodies to help fight the infection, called immunoglobulin G . The HerpeSelect® Herpes Type 2 Test is used to identify IgG in the blood. The HerpeSelect® Herpes Type 2 Test is 97 to 99 percent accurate between four to six weeks post-exposure and remains 99 percent accurate after 6 weeks post-exposure. Its important to wait at least four weeks after exposure, because it takes time for the body to develop antibodies that are detected by a blood test. The HerpeSelect® Herpes Type 2 Test detects HSV-2, even when there are no symptoms and the infection is not active.
Our herpes type 2 blood test requires a blood draw from the arm. Simply choose your test, use our lab locator to find the lab closest to you, and visit at your convenience. An appointment is not necessary, and walk-ins are welcome. You can expect results to arrive to your HealthLabs.com account in one to three business days.
The herpes type 2 blood test does not test for herpes type 1. If you would also like to be tested for herpes type 1, consider using our HerpeSelect® herpes type 1 & 2 panel.
Are There Other Types Of Herpes Viruses Besides Hsv
Yes. There are over 25 viruses in the herpes family and at least 8 types that infect humans. These include herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 discussed in this article as well as varicella zoster virus , associated with chickenpox and shingles, Epstein Barr virus , which can cause infectious mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus , human herpes virus 6 and human herpes virus 7 , both associated with roseola in young children, and human herpes virus 8 , which has been found in tumors in people with Kaposis sarcoma . KS primarily affects people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS and organ transplant recipients.
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Is An At Home Herpes Test Accurate
- Written by Dr. Patricia Sheltonon September 2, 2022
Herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease. Once youre exposed to this virus, it enters your nerve cells, where it can live for the rest of your life. Its possible for the virus to reactivate at any time. When its active, it may cause sores, and you may be able to pass the virus on to others. Even when you dont have sores, you may be able to pass on the virus.
In order to protect both themselves and their partners, many people are wondering how to check for herpes at home. How can you know whether youve been infected with this virus? Is there a rapid herpes test that you can get at home?
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Should The Clinician Order Herpes Serology
Serology is not appropriate in this case. This occurrence is suspicious for a primary outbreak in someone previously uninfected, and if so, antibodies are not going to be present. It takes 3 weeks to several months after exposure to the herpes virus for antibodies to be detectable in the blood.7
It is important, however, to remember that first clinical presentations can occur long after the primary infection.8 The clinician should not assume that what appears to be a primary outbreak indicates the patient has been recently infected or counsel the patient that they must have been infected by their current partner. There is no way to determine when the patient was initially exposed.
Clinicians may be tempted to test for herpes immunoglobulin M in an effort to determine if this is a new infection. In the case of HSV, however, IgM is not exclusively produced with initial infections. It can reappear with recurrences years after initial infection. The presence of herpes IgM cannot help differentiate between initial and established infections.7
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Herpes Testing : What Are Your Options
Medically reviewed by Michele Emery, DNP
Are you worried you might have been exposed to the herpes virus?
First: dont panic. The HSV viruses are a lot more common than you may think, and are very manageable in most cases.
Second: if you think youve been exposed to the herpes virus, testing is going to be your first plan of action.
Take a couple deep breaths and when youre ready, read on.
How Is An At Home Genital Herpes Test Performed
While there are a few different ways to test for herpes, the one thats usually used for home testing is a blood test. Sometimes known as a herpes rapid test, this is a blood test that looks for antibodies against the herpes virus. Antibodies are produced by your body in response to an infection. Having antibodies against the herpes virus means that youve been exposed to the virus.
You simply order a herpes rapid test kit online, and its sent to your home in discreet packaging that doesnt show whats inside. You take your blood sample yourself at home, using a fingerprick. After you send your sample back to the lab, herpes test online results will be available within a few days.
One benefit of doing the test at home is that it helps to maintain your privacy. Your results wont be reported to your insurance company, nor will they show up on a document called an explanation of benefits , which insurance companies routinely send after paying for something. Anyone who shares your insurance may be able to see the fact that you were tested on the EOB, even if they cant see your results. Testing at home helps to prevent this situation and keep your testing entirely private.
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Which Type Of Herpes Virus Does The Herpes Home Test Look For
The virus that causes herpes is known as the herpes simplex virus, or HSV. There are actually two types of the virus: HSV 1 and HSV 2. Its more common for people to have HSV 1 in the mouth , and HSV 2 is more common on the genitals . However, HSV 1 can also infect the genitals, and HSV 2 can also infect the mouth.
In some cases, home test kits perform only an HSV 2 test at home. In other cases, a home test kit may check for both types of the virus. If youre interested in checking for both forms of the virus, make sure youre ordering a kit that includes an HSV 1 home test as well as an HSV 2 home test.
Are Test Results Accurate
Tests that identify evidence of HSV infections are routine and commonly used medical tests. The ability of a test to accurately diagnose or rule out HSV infection depends on the test used for analysis and the stage of a patients infection.
The Tzanck smear and viral culture are less able to accurately identify patients who have an HSV infection than other tests. PCR testing and antibody testing are more sensitive, which means that they miss fewer cases of infection.
Blood tests that detect antibodies to HSV can distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2 but not the site of infection. This means that blood tests cannot tell whether a patient has a genital or oral herpes infection.
Although these tests are valuable for identifying HSV infection, no test is perfect. When learning of test results, patients should talk to their doctor about the type of test conducted, the reliability of test results, and if additional tests are necessary to confirm or rule out a diagnosis.
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The Accuracy Of Various Herpes Tests
This table summarizes the overall accuracy of different herpes tests. Please especially pay attention to the most common test, the IgG testâand most importantly to its false positive and false negative rates.
The table has three columns:
- Test accuracy: how accurate is the test in detecting the herpes virus
- False positive: the test detects the presence of herpes, but the person doesnât actually have it
- False negative: the test doesnât detect the presence of herpes, but the person does have it
Please note: the numbers in the table are averages and may vary from case to case based on factors such as when the test is performed , the testing technique, and the herpes viral load.
|Depends on the time of sample collection: usually 25% but may be up to 70%
|Commercially available IgG test: 94%Washington University test: > 99%
|Commercially available IgG test: up to 19%Washington University test*: 0%
|Commercially available IgG test: up to 38%Washington University test*: 0%
* The Washington University test is considered the âgold standardâ blood test. The false-negative and false-positive rates for the commercially available IgG test are based on a comparison to the Western blot results of the Washington University test.
Type Of Tests Used To Diagnose Herpes
There are four main types of diagnostic tests that can be used to diagnose herpes. Your doctor will determine which type of test to use based on whether an outbreak is present or not.
If youre experiencing what you believe to be a herpes outbreak, your doctor can use a viral culture test or virus antigen detection test. If youre not experiencing symptoms, you can have an antibody test.
- Viral culture test.This test is used to determine if a sore contains the herpes virus. This test can sometimes produce a false-negative, meaning that it may not detect the virus even though its present.
- Virus antigen detection test. This test is used to determine if antigens to the herpes virus are present in a sore or lesion.
- Antibody test. If youre not experiencing an outbreak yet but still believe you may have been exposed, you can opt to have an antibody test performed. This test will only show a positive result if the antibodies to the virus have been developed. Therefore, this test isnt necessarily recommended for recent exposure.
- Polymerase chain reaction test. With this test, a healthcare provider can screen a sample of your blood or tissue from a sore. They can use this to determine if HSV is present and which type you have.
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Genital And Oral Herpes Testing
- Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2
- Qualitative PCR
- Herpes Simplex Virus Culture
- Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1- and Type 2-Specific Antibodies
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When Should You Get Tested
The best time to get tested for herpes varies, depending on whats happening.
If youre exhibiting symptoms of an initial outbreak which include pain, itching and redness of the affected location fatigue, fever and chills and, ultimately, painful sores or ulcers its best to see a healthcare professional about getting tested.
However, if you think youve been exposed to the virus and arent yet exhibiting symptoms, HSV may take some time before being able to show results on a test. While the exact time frame is unknown and varies from person to person, two weeks is usually enough time to yield accurate test results.
Most people become concerned about being infected with the herpes virus after contact with a potentially infected person. Often, simple things like kissing someone with a visible cold sore or facial acne around the lips can cause concern about HSV-1.
For genital herpes, most people become concerned about potentially being infected after sexual contact with a person that shows symptoms of herpes. This can include oral sex with someone that has cold sores, which can potentially spread to the genitals.
Since herpes is asymptomatic in many people, you could be infected with the virus even if you dont have any symptoms.
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All of this tells us that sure, there are some currently available blood tests for herpes that can tell you your status or give you some idea of it but theyre still far from perfect. And when were dealing with a illness thats highly and widely stigmatized the way herpes has become, most people are looking for airtight answers. This is precisely why so many doctors, as well as the CDC, do not recommend getting tested unless you have the common symptoms associated with herpes, such as itching, burning, or a blister.
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Herpes Blood Test Results Explained
A herpes blood test is not considered to be a general screening test because false positive results are a possibility. Genital herpes is a fairly common sexually transmitted disease, so if youre concerned about an infection of the HSV-1 or HSV2 virus, it is important to discuss your sexual history with your doctor to determine if this blood test is right for you.
There are a lot of questions about the herpes blood test, so this guide is intended to help everyone understand why the recommendations for testing are designed as they are today.
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Study Questions Reliability Of Diagnostic Tests For Herpes
Up to half of those screened for genital herpes may be incorrectly told they are infected
Tests commonly used to diagnose oral and genital herpes are often unreliable, missing some cases of infection and, in others, identifying an infection that does not exist, say researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
In nearly half of patients with commercial test results indicating that they were infected with the most common cause of recurrent genital herpes, herpes simplex virus 2 , a subsequent test showed that the initial diagnosis was incorrect, the researchers report in a paper published today in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
The high rate of false-positive HSV-2 tests was particularly troubling, said Dr. Anna Wald, who led the research.
These tests arent as good as they ought to be, given that they are used to diagnose someone with a chronic, lifelong sexually transmitted disease. Wald directs UWs Virology Research Clinic and is a professor of medicine, epidemiology, and laboratory medicine.
The investigators examined results from FDA-approved tests used to diagnose HSV-2 and herpes simplex virus type 1 , the most common cause of cold sores.
These tests, called enzyme-linked immunoassays, detect the presence of antibodies to the herpes simplex viruses in a persons blood. When the antibodies are detected, the test is positive, meaning that the person is infected by the virus. No detected antibodies indicates no infection.