What is asymptomatic shedding?
Asymptomatic shedding means that virus is present on the skin without causing any symptoms. If enough virus is being shed when direct skin contact occurs, a partner may become infected.
Asymptomatic shedding is often associated with herpes simplex because so many people carry this virus without knowing - they do not see or feel any symptoms - hence they are ‘asymptomatic carriers’.
As many as 2 out of 3 people who contract the virus, catch it from someone who does not know that he or she has the virus. This could be from the lips of someone who is unaware of a cold sore during oral sex, from the fingers of someone who does not know that he or she has a herpetic whitlow, or from direct genital contact.
People who experience recurrent symptoms may also occasionally shed virus asymptomatically between recurrences. This is more likely in the week before and the week after a recurrence.
- In people who get recurrences, asymptomatic shedding occurs on average for 2 per cent of the time for people with type 2 infection and 0.7per cent of the time for those with type 1.
- The fewer recurrences a person has, the less chance there is of asymptomatic shedding.
- Asymptomatic shedding tends to diminish over the years. It is more likely to be happening in the first year and much less probable after that.
The virus is most often transmitted during the first four months of a new relationship; however partners are often together for years without the virus passing from one to the other.