There are 2 types of Herpes viruses. The most common strain is Herpes 1(HSV 1) which typically infects the areas around the mouth and is commonly known as cold sores. Many people pick up this strain of the virus, through close family contacts, and apart from being irritating and painful at times, it has no real long term consequences.
Herpes Type 2(HSV 2) is a sexually transmitted infection that typically affects the genital areas. However, it is important to note that it is possible to get an HSV 1 infection in the genitals if someone with a cold sore performs oral sex on you.
In a large proportion of adults, the infection remains subclinical, which means that you have the infection but show no or have very mild symptoms. This is why it is possible to get herpes from a partner who might not even be aware that they have the infection, but then pass it on to you and you develop symptoms.Once you have been infected with one of the two types, your body will usually make antibodies against the type. This process can take several months, which is why a blood test is not necessarily the best way to establish if you have been infected recently.
If you are concerned that you have contracted herpes recently and have unexplained lesions, the best way to test is by being examined by a doctor and having a swab done from the lesions. We can then confirm if it is indeed herpes and if so which type. This is a much more accurate way of testing for recent infection than say a blood test
If you do develop the classical herpes symptoms, they will usually appear quite soon after the contact. The typical lesions are either blisters or ulcers at the point where the virus has infected you. Although you can also get atypical lesions which might just look like a small cut or fissure in the skin.

Understanding Herpes Infection

The first attack is usually the worst and lesions can take a few weeks to clear up completely. Sometimes people will experience sensation changes in the area before the lesions become apparent. There can also be systemic symptoms such as fever, muscle pains and enlarged lymph nodes in the area affected
After the initial attack, some people will develop recurrent lesions. These attacks can vary in frequency from once every few months to once a year
It is important to note that it is possible to pass on the herpes virus if you are infected with it, even if you have no symptoms. This is more common in HSV 2 infections and also more likely in the first year after infection
There is no cure for herpes currently, but symptoms can be managed with saline bathing and antiviral tablets. It is important to start the antivirals as soon as possible, especially if this is the first attack, as there is some evidence to show this could reduce the severity and frequency of subsequent attacks.
Unfortunately, there is no way to protect partners 100% from getting infected. Condoms will provide some protection as will informing partners and using antiviral medication to suppress the virus.
If you have any suspicious lesions it is best to see your doctor as soon as possible