How Long After You Get Herpes Do You See an Outbreak?

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Ask the experts:

Is it possible to have the initial outbreak of herpes of the vagina 2 years after contacting it, and not know you had it?

Doctor's response

Herpes usually has its initial outbreak within days of the exposure. Most of the time this outbreak is severe enough that the afflicted individual is readily aware that something is wrong and that they have an infection of some sort.

Occasionally, however, the initial outbreak of genital herpes may be so mild as to not even raise the slightest suspicion and it may thus be missed altogether. It is therefore often assumed by patients who have a herpes outbreak years after the last likely exposure that it somehow sat dormant without ever causing a problem and then suddenly appeared.

The real answer to your question, if you have a current outbreak, is:

  • It is from a recent exposure to herpes; or
  • You had a herpes infection some time ago, did not realize it then, and now you have a recurrence.

Thank you for your question.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018