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Avatar universal

Likelihood of HSV-1 transmission through sharing a pipe

Last night, I shared a glass marijuana pipe with my roommate, who had a cold sore in the post-scab healing stage (still a little red). She did her best to avoid touching her cold sore with the pipe, though she did get a little closer than I'd like.  I attempted to "sterilize" the pipe by holding a flame to the mouthpiece for a few seconds before I put it in my mouth.  Immediately after we stopped smoking, I started getting concerned, and I attempted to do some internet research, but I've found nothing but contradictory information.  So I have a few related questions, some to ease my mind and some to improve my understanding of the disease:

1. How likely am I to have contracted HSV-1 in this situation? What factors make infection more or less likely? Is the chance significant enough that I should abstain from kissing and oral sex for a while? In case it is relevant, I had been taking antibiotics and feeling kind of run-down before the event.  I do not see any open cuts on my lip, but I am a frequent smoker, so there may be small lacerations that I'm unaware of.
2. Is HSV-1 transmitted via saliva?
3. How contagious is HSV-1 during the healing stage?
4. Are there any verified, non-anecdotal reports of adults contracting HSV-1 through inanimate objects? If so, is this a common scenario, or are recommendations to avoid sharing cups and utensils just intended to completely eliminate the risk of transmission?
5. In real-world conditions, how long does HSV-1 survive outside the body? If it is any help, we were in a fairly cold room.
6. I suppose this might be a little outside of your area of expertise, but does holding a flame to the mouthpiece of a pipe ACTUALLY sterilize it? How long would the flame have to be held there to kill the herpes virus?

I understand that HSV-1 is very common and more or less harmless, but I am dating a girl who is uncomfortable with the idea of any skin disease, and I don't want to endanger her.
3 Responses
239123 tn?1267647614
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Welcome to the STD forum.  Oral herpes isn't considered an STD, but it's close enough.  You also could ask on the herpes expert forum.

Assuming you're in the US, there's a 50:50 chance you have HSV-1 yourself, since half of all adults do.  Most of them have no symptoms, so lack of past cold sores doesn't mean you don't have it.  If you do, you're immune to a new infection and there is no risk at all.  Second, with your friend's oral herpes virtually completely healed, the odds are good that transmissible virus was no longer present.  That said, I cannot say there was no risk.  To the specific questions:

1) All things considered, probably less than 1 chance in several hundred that you caught HSV-1.

2) Saliva can contain HSV-1 in people with active infections.  However, simple contact with saliva may not be sufficient for transmission.  In general the virus has to be "massaged" into the exposed tissues.  That's why initial genital herpes usually shows up at the points of maximum friction during sex, e.g. penis in men and vaginal opening and labia minor in women, and uncommonly the labia major, scrotum, groin, etc.

3) Probably minimally contagious by the time a scab has fallen off.

4) Oral herpes probably is fairly often transmitted by "inanimate objects", like pipes, tooth brushes, etc.  Not as commonly as by kissing, but it happens.

5) HSV dies immediately with drying and is unlikely to survive in the environment more than a few minutes.  Herpes is not transmitted by contact with dry objects in the environment.

6) If the pipe stem was heated to anything over about 50 C (say 120 F -- too hot to touch) and then allowed to cool, it probably was effectively sterilized.  Any less then that and probably not.

Bottom line:  The chance you were infected is very low.  You might already have it; this could be determined by a blood test, if you care to go to the trouble.  If I were in your situation, I wouldn't get tested and I wouldn't be worried.

Regards--  HHH, MD
Avatar universal
Thank you.  I realized immediately after I posted my question that I said it was in the "post-scab healing stage," but I might have gotten scabbing and crusting confused.  She had the yellowish crust, which fell off a few days ago, but there was still a red spot that looked like it was healing, which may be a scab (I'm really not sure, I didn't touch it). Does this change the likelihood of transmission?  Sorry if my language was imprecise.
239123 tn?1267647614
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Once healing is well underway, the virus usually is gone.  Maybe this raises the risk a little higher than I suggested initially, but not enough to worry about.
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