You have obviously done your homework. Hopefully, you have encountered herpes.com. This is the best site I am aware of for giving straight information to the general population. I could not improve upon that short of a textbook but shall highlight some of the information here. Hopefully, clarifying and not adding to the confusion.
There are many strains of herpes including those causing chicken pox, shingles, mononucleosis and other diseases not usually considered social stigmas. Herpes is (are) actually a disease of the nervous system although most of them show up on the skin. Between outbreaks, the organism resides in ganglia or nerve bundles. Which ganglion they choose sometimes determines whether we call it cold sores or genital herpes.
HSV-1 and HSV-2 are nearly identical organisms at the level of their DNA. HSV-1 usually sets up housekeeping in a ganglion near the top end of the spine and -2 near the bottom end. This, alone, can determine whether the presenting symptoms are oral or genital. And, yes, there can be cross referral. The big difference then is social – a cold sore is no big deal to those around you but genital herpes means nasty sex has occurred. In fact, there could just be some confused herpes virus that is living the wrong place.
Most of us, as children, were exposed to herpes 1 (the cold sore variety) simply from overly demonstrative adults kissing us. We then develop anti-bodies and future contact is fought off by our own auto-immune symptoms. Some are overwhelmed and cold sores appear from time to time. Your figure of 50-80% exposure is accurate. Even among those of us who do not completely fight it off, our outbreaks are so mild as to not be recognized.
Genital herpes, the -2 kind, is not usually encountered until later in life when our immune systems are not as strong or are otherwise compromised. Nearly a quarter of us have been exposed. Again, many of us have outbreaks that are so mild as to be unrecognized. It is not unrealistic to find people who go for years with no identifiable outbreak of either form of the disease. We do not even know we “have” it! It is possible to pass it on during these mild outbreaks. Then, we say, we are passing it asymptomatically. That is, we have no symptoms but are passing the virus. In fact, we are symptomatic but at such a low level that no one knows it.
The whole picture is further clouded by “cross-resistance.” There are many studies that indicate children with bad cases of chicken pox are less likely to develop shingles in old age; other studies show the opposite. We know little about developing resistance to one form (-1or -2) giving resistance to the other. Possible, even likely, but we do not know.
The cold sore your g/f contracted “last week” may actually have been contracted when she was an infant! Some other factors allowed it to show up last week. I would not like to be kissed by someone with an obvious cold sore on the lip! Nor would I want to be the kisser. A common characteristic of herpes “patients” is that they are frequently more concerned about others than about their own health!
You two should sit down with one of your family doctors and talk this through. My guess is that there is much less to be concerned about than you think.
In the meantime, herpes.com
Posted: 29 Sep 21:08