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​Herpes is an infection that is caused by one of two different types of viruses; Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1) or Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2). Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) infections are very common and contagious.

Test at a glance

Clinical Utility
​Used to screen or diagnose Herpes infection. Typically performed on those with symptoms of an infection with HSV, such as blisters in the genital area, or symptoms of viral meningitis.

​Healthcare provider needs to indicate the test name in the ‘Other Tests’ section of the requisition form.

Patient instructions
​Patient needs to bring the completed requisition form to a Patient Service Centre. 

Turnaround Time
​Test results will be available within two to four weeks.

​This test is not currently covered by provincial health plans, but may be covered by the patient’s private insurance.

Healthcare Professional Information

​What is Being Tested?

Herpes simplex virus testing is performed to identify an acute herpes infection or to detect herpes antibodies, an indication of a previous exposure to herpes. One of the most common viral infections, herpes simplex virus (HSV) exists as two main types, HSV-1 and HSV-2. Both types are contagious and periodically cause small fever blisters (vesicles) that break to form open lesions. HSV-1 primarily causes blisters or "cold sores" around the oral cavity and mouth, while HSV-2 usually causes lesions around the genital area; however, either one can affect the oral or genital area.

Patient Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

​How is it used?

HSV testing is used to detect the presence of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) in those who have genital sores or encephalitis and in newborns suspected of having neonatal herpes, a rare but serious condition in which herpes is contracted during vaginal birth.

When is it ordered?

HSV testing is ordered primarily when someone is being screened for a previous exposure to HSV.

A doctor may also order an HSV antibody test if someone has another STD and is at risk for the infection. Risk factors include having multiple sex partners, having a sex partner with herpes, being infected with HIV, or being at risk for HIV because the person is a man who has sex with men.

What does the test result mean?

HSV-1 or HSV-2 IgG antibodies indicate a previous infection. Negative HSV antibody results mean that it is unlikely that the person has been exposed to HSV or that the body has not had time to begin producing HSV antibodies. This is why people who may have been exposed to the virus, but do not have symptoms, should wait a few months before getting tested.

Is there a charge for the test?

This test is largely not covered by the provincial health insurance plans, but it may be covered by patient’s extended health insurance plan. Contact us to find out about the current fee for the test.

Is there anything else I should know?

The most serious, or life-threatening, HSV infections can occur in newborns who are infected during birth and in immunocompromised individuals. The lesions tend to be more extensive and persist longer than in individuals who have healthy immune systems.

Herpes can make people more susceptible to HIV infection. Likewise, it can make HIV-infected individuals more infectious. Infection with HSV can also increase HIV viral load. HSV-2 infection is a significant opportunistic infection in HIV-infected individuals; up to 90% of HIV-infected individuals are co-infected with HSV-2.
HSV, in combination with human papilloma virus (HPV) infection, has been associated with a higher risk of developing cervical cancer.

Additional Resources

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