How to Read Herpes Simplex Virus Test Report

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Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Test:

Herpes simplex virus test is done to detect or screen for the infection caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV). It causes skin infection, genital sores, or encephalitis. Depending upon the symptoms of infection, testing for herpes virus can be done by virus culture, PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), or antibody testing.

Factors involved to understand the normal range of Herpes simplex virus (HSV) levels:

  1. What is the normal range of HSV test?
  2. What do negative results of HSV test mean?
  3. What do positive results of HSV test mean?
  4. Symptoms of a positive Herpes test
  5. Causes of a positive HSV test
  6. Are there any risks associated with Herpes Simplex Virus Test?
  7. What other tests are ordered along with Herpes Simplex Virus Test?

What is the normal range of HSV test?

Absence of Herpes Simplex virus in the blood is the normal result of the test.

What do negative results of HSV test mean?

A negative viral culture or PCR result could indicate an absence of herpes infection. However, false negative results are obtained if the amount of virus in the sores is not at a detectable level. False negative results with blood test are also obtained if the test is carried out too early in the infection.

What do positive results of HSV test mean?

A positive result of the viral culture test or PCR test indicates herpes infection.

A positive HSV1 or HSV2 IgM result indicates an active or recent infection.

A positive HSV1 or HSV2 IgG antibody indicates a previous infection.

In some cases of infection, levels of IgM stay elevated for a period of 12 months after the infection.

Symptoms of a positive Herpes test

Most of the time people with herpes infection show no symptoms even though they are carrying the virus. In cases where symptoms are seen, they may include:

  • Sores in the mouth or genital area
  • Painful urination
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Lack of appetite
  • Itching

HSV can also affect the eyes causing a condition called herpes keratitis. This causes symptoms such as eye pain, discharge, and gritty feeling in the eyes.

Causes of a positive HSV test

The virus is generally transmitted through oral secretions or sores on the skin and so it is spread through physical contact like kissing or sharing objects such as toothbrush or utensils. A person can test positive for herpes infection when he/she has been in sexual contact with someone who has genital herpes infection.

Are there any risks associated with Herpes Simplex Virus Test?

The sample collection involves a swab test, a blood test, or a lumbar puncture. There are no known risks associated with a simple swab test. Side effects of blood test may include slight pain or bruising at the site of infection, but these symptoms go away quickly. Lumbar puncture may involve some pain or tenderness in the back where needle was inserted. It can also cause headache, in some cases.

What other tests are ordered along with Herpes Simplex Virus Test?

Along with testing for antibodies against herpes infection, culture test is also ordered when a person has blisters on the genitals. HSV DNA testing is ordered when the patient may show signs and symptoms of encephalitis. Tests for screening for other STDs, especially HIV testing, is recommended as HSV infection can increase the risk of being infected with other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

HSV test requires no special preparation. The results are generally obtained within a day or two. Cultures generally take longer and reports are available within two or more days. The test is often ordered when a person is being screened for a previous exposure, has a history of STD, or is at a risk of infection.

The condition cannot be cured but it can be managed. Medications can prevent or shorten duration of herpes outbreaks and reduce the risk of spreading infections. The most reliable way to manage or avoid infection is to abstain from oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Talk to your health care provider about more options to manage the condition.


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