If you've been diagnosed with herpes, but your doctor is not sure whether it's HSV-1 or HSV-2, an accurate type specific genital herpes test is of the utmost importance.
a wrong diagnosis either way can have far reaching consequences.
On the one hand, countless people have lived for years under the false impression that they had genital herpes because they were either diagnosed on their symptoms alone, or their tests were inaccurate.
These people underwent broken romances, psychological trauma, shame and the expense of needless medication - all for the wrong reason.
By the same token, many infected people were given the all clear, only to cause havoc by spreading the virus among their future sexual partner/s.
In addition, HSV-2 positive pregnant women ran the risk of infecting their unborn baby in the womb or during childbirth.
Some Reasons For Misdiagnosis
In most cases, the physician is not at fault when it comes to misdiagnosis.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this can be blamed on a number of factors:
An overwhelming number of patients are too ashamed to admit having sex with an unfamiliar partner.
They did not connect their symptoms to their recent sexual activity.
Many women are unwilling to consult their doctor on such a potentially embarrassing problem - especially if he's a male doctor.
Patients do not want their herpes status appearing on their medical records and following them around for the rest of their lives.
Because of the above, lack of direction often leads physicians down the wrong diagnostic path.
When clinical tests were carried out, their genital herpes test returned false negative or false positive results.
Without an accurate test, HSV-2 is notoriously difficult to diagnose. This is because the symptoms are similar to those of many different ailments, ranging from Anaphylaxis to Vaginitis.
Appalling Results From The National STD Prevention Conference
On March the 10th, 2010, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the latest herpes statistics based on the 2005 to 2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The survey involved households from across the country.
The shocking truth is that one out of every six Americans are now infected with genital herpes.
In fact, 19 million new STD infections occur every year in the United States, almost half of them among young people.
To add to the problem the majority do not know they are infected, and this greatly increases the risks of passing the virus on to others.
A New Generation of Genital Herpes Tests
In an attempt to control the spread of herpes, a few months before the conference the CDC issued new guidelines recommending the sole use of type-specific genital herpes tests.
Until recently, commercially available tests were unreliable at distinguishing HSV-1 (oral herpes) from HSV-2 (genital herpes), with one exception:
The expensive and time-consuming University of Washington's ”Western Blot” serologic assay for HSV-2.
Since up to 90% of the population are infected with HSV-1 and 80% of those are asymptomatic (never had an outbreak), the recently available tests were simply a waste of time and money.
Here's the good news:
Two new type-specific tests are now commercially available, both of which are CDC approved and recommended.
The HerpeSelect® HSV-1 and HSV-2 ELISA test kit manufactured and distributed by Focus Technologies (Cypress, CA). This test is readily available and it has been approved by the FDA for the highly accurate serologic assay for HSV-2 in adults and pregnant women.
The test takes less than a day after the specimen arrives in the reference laboratory, and it only costs about $25 per test.
Biokit HSV-2, formerly known as "POCkit™HSV-2". This test kit is manufactured and distributed by Biokit USA as biokit-HSV-2 and by Fisher Scientific under the brand name "SureVue".
The test can be carried out in offices and clinics with access to laboratory facilities, and it's safe for pregnant women.
A simple finger stick is used to draw blood and the results are available in about 10 minutes. The cost? About $20!
The above prices are about a tenth of the cost of the Western Blot serologic assay.
Whereas the Western Blot is the Gold Standard herpes blood test, both the HerpesSelect and the Biokit tests are almost as accurate.
However, on rare occasions, all three tests can produce false results.
To guard against this possibility, two tests should be carried out a couple of months apart, starting with the Biokit HSV-2 test and then the HerpesSelect as the follow-up control test.
It takes several weeks for antibodies to show up in the blood of newly infected victims, therefor the initial genital herpes test should be done at least eight weeks after the symptomatic diagnosis.
The Importance of Knowing Your HSV-2 Status
Although the CDC does not advocate nation-wide testing, they strongly recommend a periodic type specific genital herpes test for certain high-risk individuals, such as:
Promiscuous individuals with multiple sex partners.
African American people with more than one sex partner. The CDC reports that 39.2 percent are infected; a rate more than three times that of caucasians. African American women had the highest prevalence of HSV-2, at 48 percent.
HIV positive individuals and people with immune deficiency disorders, because they carry a higher risk of HSV-2 infection than non-immunocompromised people.
Gay or bisexual men.
Pregnant women. This is, a) Because women are five times more likely to be infected than men and a high percentage are asymptomatic, and b) There is a real chance of inflicting their baby with dangerous and often fatal neonatal disease.
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