ZocdocAnswersCan HSV-2 be transmitted through oral sex?

Question

Can HSV-2 be transmitted through oral sex?

My partner has HSV-2. We haven't had sex yet, but we WILL be using protection. However, I want to perform oral sex with her, but am afriad of contracting the virus. From what I have read, HSV-2 can only be transmitted through intercourse. Is that 100% true? Or can I still contract it if I were to perform oral on her?

Answer

As you know, there are two main types of Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) - types 1 and 2. In order to discuss different sexual practices, the risks associated with them, and to learn more about HSV, I would recommend scheduling an appointment to see your doctor. You are right that it is extremely uncommon to acquire HSV-2 from performing oral sex with a partner who has genital HSV-2. This is for two reasons. One, HSV-2 has a preference for residing in the nerve roots that lie at the base of your spine, whereas HSV-1 generally lives in the nerve roots closer to your head. This is why with an HSV-1 infection, people get cold sores on their lips, and with an HSV-2 infection, they get the sores in their genital area. Two, most people have already acquired HSV-1 in their lives, and this actually protects those people from becoming infected with HSV-2, as the immune system makes antibodies against both HSV-1 and 2 once infected with either of these viruses. If you have HSV-1 (which you may have even if you have never had a cold sore), then you have this immune protection against HSV-2. Getting back to your question, however, although there is very very close to a 100% chance that you will not acquire HSV-2 from engaging in oral sex with your partner who has the virus, it is possible. Again, I would recommend discussing the exact risks more thoroughly with your doctor.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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