Common Misconceptions

Cold sores aren’t herpes.

Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 OR 2. If you have oral sex with someone who has a cold sore, it is possible to contract genital herpes.


Only people who are promiscuous get herpes.

Herpes is extremely common. It is estimated that upwards of 50 –80% of the population in North America has herpes, either type 1 or type 2. Many people don’t realize they have it, as a herpes test is not part of regular STD screening.


You can contract genital herpes from toilet seats.

HSV dries out when it is exposed to air, and is quite fragile. There have been no proven cases of genital herpes transmission from a toilet seat.


I don’t have symptoms, so I don’t have herpes.

Many people don’t experience symptoms when having an outbreak or they are so mild that they go unnoticed. Most people with herpes don’t realize they carry the virus and can unknowingly infect others.


I get a PAP smear. My results have always been negative, so I don’t have herpes.

Because herpes is so common, it’s not included in a standard STD panel. If you are concerned that you may have genital herpes, ask your healthcare provider specifically to test you for genital herpes. (Swab test: for active outbreaks within 72 hours. IgG type-specific test: blood test, can be done any time.)