STDs Expert Forum
Herpetic Whitlow - How Contagious?
About This Forum:

The STD Forum is intended only for questions and support pertaining to sexually transmitted diseases other than HIV/AIDS, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, human papillomavirus, genital warts, trichomonas, other vaginal infections, nongonoccal urethritis (NGU), cervicitis, molluscum contagiosum, chancroid, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). All questions will be answered by H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D. or Edward W Hook, MD.

Font Size:
A
A
A
Background:
Blank
Blank
Blank
This expert forum is not accepting new questions. Please post your question in one of our medical support communities.
Blank Blank

Herpetic Whitlow - How Contagious?

Hi Dr.,

I am sorry to bother you again, but I have another situation, and don’t know where else to get the most accurate answers.

I’m living with my parents right now, and my mother developed a  very itchy, painful, large lesion on her finger.  It was blistering up, and rapidly becoming larger and swelling, so she asked me to take her to the doctor.  I honestly was thinking that it was a bacterial infection, but he took one look at it, and said that it is herpes simplex.  He told her that it’s highly contagious, and that she needs to cover it up.  He seems to think that she likely caught it from work, where she handles a lot of money and people’s credit cards, etc.

I am very worried, because I think that I am likely to have caught this.  We touch all of the same things - the refrigerator, doorknobs, faucets, etc.  We also have a dog, and we both pet him all the time   She will pet him and then I will, and then he will jump in bed with me to go to sleep  when I’m just in my underwear, etc.  We use the same bathroom, so I’m sure that she touched my toilet paper. Even worse, I used her nail clipper a few days ago, and I cut myself with it.  Besides that, I do have another cut on my hand.  Since her symptoms started a few days ago, I feel that I already caught it.

We have not had any direct contact that I can recall, but the doctor says that it is highly contagious and that she needs to keep it covered, because it can be spread easily through just touching the same things.  He was so certain about it being herpes that he didn’t want to culture it.  It definitely does look like the pictures of herpetic whitlow that I have been looking at, and my dad says it looks like the cold sores that he got as a child.

She is so convinced that it’s not herpes that she thinks it’s absurd.  She wants o keep it uncovered because she says that it ‘needs air’, and that it’s not herpes.

Is what he says true?  Do you think that I have possibly contracted it?
Related Discussions
239123_tn?1267651214
Herpes is not transmitted all that easily, despite your mom's doctor's advice.  The virus is not transmitted through indirect contact, like doorknobs or contact with the dog you both have petted.  It is only transmitted by direct contact.  The doctor's advice to keep it covered with a bandage until it heals, is wise -- but direct contact still is required for transmission.  So even if she insists on leaving it open to the air, there really is not a high risk for others in the household.

And it is also true that your mom may be right:  her finger infection may not be herpes.  While the doctor's diagnsosis has to be respected, paronychia -- a bacterial infection of the fingertip or near the fingernail, usually caused by staph or strep -- can look identical to a herpes whitlow.  Were tests for HSV and for bacteria done?  Either way, just don't let your mother directly touch you with her infected finger, especially around the face, eyes, etc -- then try to stop worrying about it.

I think the main problem here, once again, is your OCD and your obsession with STDs, which is inflating your worry about this situation.  However, herpes of this sort is not an STD, so this is somewhat off topic for this forum, so there won't be any follow-up comments or discussion.

I also need to remind you of the MedHelp rule against excessive posting; in order to prevent forum domination by anxiety driven qeustions by the same people, there is a maximum of 2 questions every 6 months on each of the professionally moderated forums (see Terms and Conditions).  This will have to be your last before next December.  (I don't want you to waste a non-refundable posting fee on a question that would be deleted without reply.)

Anyway, I hope this helps.  Regards--  HHH, MD
2 Comments
Blank
Avatar_n_tn
Oh, I do remember that yesterday she was holding a bag of food and showing it to me, and I went over to look at it and touch the bag, but I never touched the lesion directly.
Blank
Continue discussion Blank
MedHelp Health Answers
Blank
Weight Tracker
Weight Tracker
Start Tracking Now
RSS Expert Activity
469720_tn?1388149949
Blank
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm-treatable... Blank
Oct 04 by Lee Kirksey, MDBlank
242532_tn?1269553979
Blank
The 3 Essentials to Ending Emotiona...
Sep 18 by Roger Gould, M.D.Blank
242532_tn?1269553979
Blank
Control Emotional Eating with this ...
Sep 04 by Roger Gould, M.D.Blank