A negative (normal) test usually means you have not been infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2.
If the infection occurred very recently (within a few weeks to 3 months), the test may be negative, but you may still be infected. This is called a false negative.
A positive test means you have been infected with the herpes simplex virus recently or at some point in the past.
Tests to determine patterns of antibodies can sometimes help determine if you have a recent infection.
Approximately 70% of adults have been infected by HSV-1 and have antibodies against the virus. About 20% of adults will have antibodies against the HSV-2 virus.
Herpes simplex virus stays in your system once you have been infected. It may be dormant and cause no symptoms, or may flare up and cause symptoms. This test cannot tell whether you are having a flare-up.
HSV-2 usually causes genital herpes, whereas HSV-1 usually causes cold sores (oral herpes). However, some cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-1 and vice versa.
Gupta R, Warren T, Wald A. Genital herpes. Lancet. 2007 Dec 22;370(9605):2127-37.
Corey L. Herpes simplex virus. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2005:chap 132.
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