Herpes testing

Sample type needed

Blood test, urine or swab

Incubation period 

If you have symptoms - straight away

If you do no have symptoms - 4 to 6 weeks

Who is this test suitable for?

Men and women

Results time 

4 days from receipt in the lab


Herpes cannot be cured.

Outbreaks can be managed with antiviral medication.

Where can I get tested?

All Better2Know centres


What is Herpes?

Herpes is a viral disease caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). The infections are generally categorised by the parts of the body it infects. There are two main types of the virus:

  • Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV I) - Most commonly causes oral infections such as cold sores around the mouth and the lips. This virus can be caught through oral contact from the infected mouth to the genitals.
  • Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV II) – Most commonly causes intimate infections such as blisters or ulcers around the genitals. The virus can also be caught through oral contact from the infected genitals to the mouth.

HSV I is responsible for about half of "genital herpes" cases known. This is because type 1 can transfer to the genital area during oral sex. It is important to know which type you have.

HSV II, or genital herpes, is primarily transmitted through sexual contact. 50% of people who have HSV II may not know they are infected as they may not have symptoms.

The virus can be passed onto partners during sex when the infected person has symptoms, but it can also infect a partner if there are no symptoms present. Herpes is very infectious.

What are the symptoms of HSV I and II?

Symptoms for Herpes usually appear after 4 to 7 days after being exposed to the virus, and are usually more severe in your first outbreak than in subsequent ones.

In both men and women, the virus can cause small blisters that burst to leave red open sores around the mouth and lips, genital area, rectum, thighs and buttocks. Blisters can be small or large and can be just one blister, or many located close together.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Pain when passing urine
  • A general feeling of being unwell
  • Aches, pains and flu-like symptoms
  • A burning, tingling or an itching sensation.

Some people can catch the virus without developing these symptoms.


Did you know?  …

Most people with Herpes Simplex II do not know that they are infected.

How can I catch Herpes?

Both virus types are highly contagious and most commonly passed from person to person by touching the blisters or sores of the symptomatic person. The risk of catching or transmitting these viruses is likely if you or your partner has blisters or sores, but Herpes can still be transmitted if you or your partner does not have symptoms. Herpes can be transferred in non-sexual ways such as touching or kissing.

Once you have been infected with Herpes, it can be reactivated every so often causing new episodes or outbreaks. Recurrent symptoms are almost always on visible skin.

What happens if I do not get treatment for Herpes? 

In some cases, HSV can pose problems during pregnancy and can be passed to the baby during birth. This is most likely if you have first outbreak of Type 2 during the last few weeks of a pregnancy. Women who have carried the virus for some time before becoming pregnant are unlikely to pass the infection to their baby.

Blisters or ulcers that are near the vaginal opening during delivery can cause the virus to be passed onto the baby, which can cause serious neo-natal infections. If symptoms develop for the first time during pregnancy, there is a risk of miscarriage and an increased chance of passing the infection to the baby. Your midwife will be able to advise you on how to avoid these.

In rare cases, blisters caused by HSV can become infected by bacteria and cause skin infections that can spread to other parts of the body such as the lips, hands and fingers. In very rare cases, the virus can spread to other areas of the body such as the brain, eyes, liver or lungs. It is important to get tested so that you know your status and can keep your partners and loved ones safe from this infection.

How can Herpes be tested?

There are three easy ways to test for the virus with Better2Know:

  • Blood Test - our standard test whether or not you have symptoms
  • Urine Test - if you currently have symptoms
  • Swab Test - if you have a blister or other lesion for swabbing to see if it is caused by HSV.

A blood test is most suitable if you have no symptoms. The results will state whether you have HSV I, HSV II, both or neither, and are available four working days from the sample being received in our lab depending on which sample is taken. 


Long-term care

Both HSV I and HSV II stay in the body forever. Around half of those infected get recurrent outbreaks. Fortunately, these outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe. Overtime, recurrent infections become less frequent and less severe so many people find their reliance on medications can reduce.

Lifestyle changes can also help control the time between outbreaks and their severity. If you test positive, Better2Know can provide you with medication and advice on lifestyle changes, to help you control the infection. Book your test with Better2Know now.

Want to read more about Herpes?

Blog: Everything you need to know about Herpes