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Sudden chronic herpes after never having it before

I only had sex with one person in two years and she has never had an outbreak and has negative antibody results. After about 6 months of having sex with only her and nobody else in 2 years I suddenly had an outbreak that has persisted for almost 3 months now. Valtrex does not seem to help. It takes a few weeks for blistering to go away and immediately pops up in a new spot. Always in my pubic area and not on penis. When I explain everything to doctors they think it’s something else but after the visual they agree it looks like herpes. After 8 weeks of this happening I figured I was in the window to have antibodies present. The IgG test was consistent with herpes 2 and I’m back in valtrex again. She still keeps testing negative and so symptoms. I tested negative every year until now because in routine labs for employment. I don’t know how to make sense of this situation or if it will ever go away. Instead of 1 long 3 month outbreak I would describe it more as 3 separate in April, May, and now June where it subsided a little and then popped out in a new spot. Again, I don’t notice valtrex doing anything different for my May and June experiences versus April when I didn’t take anything. This all happened as soon as I got my covid shot, don’t know if that’s relevant. I also had burning urinating in April when it started, no bacterial cultures found. I have had constant nerve pain, feels like a sunburn, all around my lower back right side and thighs since this started as well. I had swollen lower lymph nodes when it started too but I attributed it to my vaccines at the time (also had a rabies and typhoid shot in April for work). The sores themselves are not painful. They heal with scars left behind.  Why is this happening to me all of a sudden? Could I have carried it dormant for years and the vaccines triggered them? Can she have carried it dormant and passed to me without symptoms and still not ever have antibodies?
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I'm a little confused about your testing when you say that "it's consistent" with hsv2. Does that mean you tested positive for it? Have any of the sores themselves been cultured?

I'm not sure where you are and what employment you do, but I'd guess that your employment blood work didn't include herpes testing. You should see what you can find out about that, because if it did, or if it didn't, changes things.

When was your last round of testing? If you were actually tested then and were negative, then this is a new infection. It's odd then, that your partner is testing negative.

If you weren't tested, which is far more likely, then it's entirely possible - and quite likely - that the covid vaccine, specifically the second dose - triggered your outbreaks. I've read several accounts of people who are getting outbreaks triggered after having no symptoms ever. This would be reasonable with your partner testing negative, as well.

Many of the people who've suddenly been getting symptoms are also reporting that they are having a hard time getting things under control - much like it's a brand new infection. What dose of Valtrex are you on?

Herpes sores don't typically leave scars, so if these haven't been cultured, make sure to do that.
Helpful - 1
On my anti HSV 1/2 IgG test results my number is 51.9 U/ml, the range is
Neg: 25

I couldn’t get a culture done because all we have is a small health unit and a nurse available. There is a lab they sent my blood out to for the antibody test. I asked for the culture to be done and they said they don’t have that capability. It’s a very small place I’m at overseas.

I work for a government agency and every year HSV 1, 2 is a line item on my blood test along with HIV, RPR, HPV and I was alway negative. I have my medical record and can see my 2019 results were neg, I also have result from previous years. I have to go through intense medical clearance for my job.
It left scars perhaps because before I was told it was herpes I was scrubbing and washing the area and broke open scabs.
Sorry. I meant to type that my result shows 51.9 U/ml and the positive range is >25. Neg range<20  borderline 20-25.
May 17th I started 1000mg twice a day for 10 days, it wasn’t fully clear when I ran out and then June 17th it started to break out in a new spot and I was able to get to the health unit 3 days later and got another 10 days of valtrex. It looks like it’s starting to heal a little now but even when the bluster scabs up and goes away a red scar remains.
Okay so your blood test is a combo test, it seems. Do you only have one numerical result? If you do only have one, that means that you have type 1, OR type 2, OR both. And if you only have type 1, if means you don't know know where you have it, and therefore if what you have going on is herpes.

The hsv1 misses 30% of infections, so you could have had that all along. If you could find someone to culture it, it would be awesome. Is there a larger city near you? A dermatologist? They must be able to do wound cultures if someone comes in with an infected wound. There's also no reason whatsoever for any work agency - government or not - to ever know your herpes status. I find that a ridiculous invasion of privacy.

When you say it leaves a red scar, is it a red spot that lingers for a few days or do you still have red spots from May?

In any case, you need to get these cultured. That's the only way to find out for sure.
Or, can you get a type specific test, that gives you an index for each type?
Thanks for your replies. I’m a US Diplomat at cannot get a PCR test. I will be leaving here and going back home to the States around July 16th and already have appointments set up. I don’t know if their will be anything for them to take a culture of at that time or not but in the meantime all I can do is sit here and stress out.

Also I want to mention in the printout of my results there is also an antibody HSV 1/2 IgM line with a result of 8 U/ml. The guidance range is the same (negative 25) if I’m reading correctly, this IgM test is negative. This is very confusing to me and my health unit here is worthless in my opinion.

As far as the scaring, in my pubic area above my penis where this is happening the most, a blister starts as a red bump, then it turns to yellow ***** small blisters, then consolidates to a couple big blisters. When I popped them in the shower they scabbed up and left a red mark after the scab fell off. My current outbreak I took extra care not to pop of mess with it in any way. The puss has mostly gone away and looks red and scabby now. Next to it, the site of my first blister looks like a red scar. Now there’s also an are on my actual penis, right at the base, where I had blisters during the first outbreak. I was laying in bed on my stomach with my penis in an up position to where the base of my shaft made contact with the pubic area blisters. This caused blisters too pop up in that part of my penis and when they scabbed over and healed the left white scaring. So there’s little white scares in that part of my penis which are different than the red spot left behind from the blisters on my pubic area. I’m white skinned and slightly tan, my penis skin is slightly darker tanned but now has white scar spots where those blisters were. Those contact blisters healed much faster than the ones that formen in my pubic area.
Thank you for taking time to read this and respond.
Ohhh it's an IGM. It looks for new antibodies, not established infections, and if you haven't had sex in the last few weeks, it's not even designed for you. It's also terribly unreliable, and shouldn't be done on anyone other than newborns. Ignore it entirely.

"I was laying in bed on my stomach with my penis in an up position to where the base of my shaft made contact with the pubic area blisters. This caused blisters too pop up in that part of my penis and when they scabbed over and healed the left white scaring."

Herpes doesn't spread this way. You are infected in your entire genital area already. Herpes infects nerve groups, and genital herpes infects the sacral ganglia. This means that you can get outbreaks anywhere in the boxer shorts area.

I really wish you could get this cultured somehow, but at this rate, you will have something to culture in a couple of weeks when you come back to the states, unfortunately. I'm glad you have appts already set up.

How bad is the pain? Itching? You can use anything ending in 'caine on it - lidocaine, for example. Make sure it doesn't have antibiotics in it. Keeping them dry will help, but sometimes lidocaine just helps. It may help you make it through what must be a several hour long flight when you come home.
It’s actually not painful at all. Intermittently maybe a tingle or nerve pain but the actual sores haven’t hurt. Last month when it was scabbing up it was itchy but right now it doesn’t hurt. I do get some nerve pain around my back and leg that feels like a sunburn a couple days before a new sore forms. I will update here if anything changes or when I see my doctor next month.
When you get that sunburn feeling, take your Valtrex, or up the dose if you are taking it daily. That's your prodrome. You might be able to prevent the sores from appearing if you take the meds at the start.

The treatment dose for outbreaks is 500 mgs twice a day for 3 days. If you are on suppression of 1000 mgs, take 1000 mgs twice a day for 3 days.
Some new information. My sex partner started to get symptoms for the first time about a week ago. Our last time having sex was April 15th, I had a red bump at the time that I thought was nothing since I hadn’t been with anyone else since 2019 and she hadn’t since 2020. She’s in the States and has normal access to healthcare, unlike me. She had a PCR test and IgG antibody test. They are positive for both HSV 1 and 2. I didn’t see her PCR test results but I can see her antibody test. There are 2 separate lines and HSV1 is 33.90 high and HSV2 is 18.90 high. She said after I tested positive last month that she had another blood test and it was negative, then a week later she gets symptoms and now positive antibodies for both 1 and 2. I never saw those results but I did see her May results and they were negative. Meanwhile my last out break has scabbed and gone away but leaves a red mark, kind of like a red stain, in my pubic area. I now have 2 red looking scars or whatever where my last 2 blisters were. I still have doctor appointment lined up later this month. I have a feeling I will have a fresh breakout by the time I get to the doctor because it’s been consistently happening every month since I got my covid shot in April.
Okay, so you need to get to the States and test. I'm glad you have appts already set up.

When you get home, ask for a type specific IgG blood test, and if you have sores at the time - do not pop any sores you have - ask them to do a type specific PCR swab on it, if they can. Not every place can, so if they can't or won't, insist that they do a type specific culture on them. Make them do that even if they are doing the type specific blood testing. You can have either type genitally, so make them do that.

It's quite possible you have had it for awhile, and the covid vaccine triggered these outbreaks. You and your partner could have both had it prior to coming together, or one of you gave it to each other. You will likely never know. Since your last encounter with her was in April, and she's just now getting symptoms, it's hard to say when she was infected.

When was she vaccinated, if she has been? Maybe she was triggered by the vax, too?

Hang in there - you have less than 10 days left.
She was vaccinated in March. She also had covid in January. She’s been dealing with breast cancer as well. I feel very bad that I may have infected her.
Oh hon. Timing wise, it's just really hard to say. I don't know what kind of treatment she's had, and what her immune system has been like at those times, so it's really hard to say if she would have had outbreaks earlier.

It does seem like a new infection, because she had the negative IgG, then a week later, she had the positive, but I'm confused now.

Reading back through this, you say that you've been negative on testing for your job. You were negative in 2019, I don't see mention of 2020- maybe you weren't tested because of covid?, and now in 2021, you have a test that's positive IgG. You can test positive on an IgG in as soon as a couple of weeks - I did. It can also take as long as 12 weeks, though most will by 6 weeks. Did you have to test before you left?

Your only sex partner has been this woman, and you've been with her for 6 months, if I'm correct.

She has negative tests until this month, and is now positive for both hsv1 and hsv2, on the IgG. In May, they were negative.

I'm sorry, because I forgot about your negative tests, and was assuming that the covid vax had triggered these outbreaks for you, which has happened in people who've had long standing infections they didn't know about, but you have negative tests. I'm really interested in your past tests, if they were IgM or IgG, and the dates on those.  

If you were negative by testing until you met her, I see no way that you are her source.

The hsv1 IgG can miss 30% of infections, but the hsv2 IgG is far more likely to cause false positives, not false negatives.

I hope I'm not talking in circles - I probably am, but the timing just sort of bashed me in the head this morning and it's not making sense to me.
Sorry for getting back to you late. I had a negative IgG test in 2018 and then again September 2019. Then I didn’t have a doctor visit in 2020, normally I do for yearly medical clearance but they renewed my med clearance without a checkup.

After my last test in 2019 I didn’t have other sexual partners in October of 2019 whom I no longer have contact with and think it’s possible I could have been infected at that time. I met the current girl in August  of 2020 when I came home on leave and we had sex for a couple months while I was home. Then again in March of 2021 I was home again and we were having sex uno until April when by outbreak started. Then I was back to work beginning of May when my outbreak kept persisting I decided to go to the health unit were they told me it was herpes. While this was happening, she was at home seeing her PCP and getting checked. She had no symptoms and negative antibody tests. She shared the results with me and I could see negative IgG test from her in May. Then in June during my third outbreak I was able to get my combined 1/2 test which was positive. Then about the beginning of July she suddenly got symptoms and it was very painful for her. She went back to her doc again and had a PCR test and IgG test. I didn’t see the result of the PCR but I saw her blood test and HSV 1 and 2 were both positive. She’s over those symptoms now and on Valtex. I have been cleared up now for about 2 weeks and not on any medication. I will be getting to my doctor next week to discuss all of this.

But yes she’s the only one I had sex with lately, we started in August 2020 and prior to that I didn’t have sex at all going back to October 2019 (one month after my last test)

She has been with only me since we started up as well. When I was away she was dealing with covid and cancer and I don’t think she was out having sex with anyone else. She was free to do so because we are not in a serious relationship (friends/benefits type of thing) however she says I’m the only one she had sex with since last fall.

I don’t think she would be passing it to me in March or April if her test were still showing negative up until her July outbreak and positive test.

I wonder if I became infected in 2019 after my last test and just never had symptoms until the covid shot triggered it. Or if I was infected even before that but just never had antibodies because the virus was hiding and my body didn’t know it was there, not sure if that’s possible.

I’m at home now and not back overseas again until I get all this figured out.
"I wonder if I became infected in 2019 after my last test and just never had symptoms until the covid shot triggered it."

This is entirely possible, and we are seeing a lot of people who are reporting this, some who've had it much, much longer. You couldn't have had it prior to 2019, because you were testing negative.  The virus may hide in nerve cells, but your body still knows it's there and antibodies are made. You'd have still tested positive.

I'd still like to see you get some proper testing, though it does seem like you do have it.

I'm glad you're back. Keep me posted on how you are. I'm glad you're feeling better, as is your friend.

Oh and make sure to ask for type specific IgG testing.
It’s been a while since I updated you. I have been grieving over a loss. When I got home I had another antibody test that was positive for HSV2 and negative for HSV1. However, my girlfriend results in July after her first outbreak were positive on both. So to review: I had symptoms and a positive test first, she had hers 3 months later. She was positive 1&2 after her breakout but I was only positive for 2. Also remember her tests were negative the month prior while mine was positive.
I'm really sorry for your loss.

So it sounds like your theory of being infected sometime after your 2019 test is correct, and you just didn't get symptoms until your vaccine.

The hsv1 is trickier. The hsv1 IgG misses 3o% of infections, so you could have that and the test missed it, or maybe you don't. Your girlfriend's earlier test could have missed it, and she might have had that before meeting you. You consistently test negative for hsv1, so it's more likely that her earlier test just missed her established infection. You should check though to make sure she didn't have a combo test, where she only gets one result for hsv1 & 2.

How are you feeling now? Have your symptoms calmed down at all?

She didn’t have a combo. I saw each line  on her results. I haven’t had any symptoms since July and am on valtrex 500 daily. Right now I need to focus on my grief because it’s[my loss] the hardest thing I ever had to experience and the herpes seems like nothing at all to me right now. Thanks for all your responses
I'm glad your symptoms have calmed down. You do what you need to do to get through this. We're here if you need us.

I'll be keeping you and Alice in my thoughts. Take care.
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