Testing for herpes is necessary in determining if the herpes simplex virus is present in people suffering from encephalitis and genital sores, as well as in newborn babies who are suspected to have neonatal herpes, a rare serious condition where the virus is acquired from birth. If herpes has been found in a pregnant woman, she may have to be monitored on a regular basis before during the entire period of her pregnancy until she gives birth, in order to determine if the infection is present. If the test turns out to be positive, there will be a need for a caesarian operation to prevent the baby from being infected.

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The symptoms of herpes vary from person to person. If there is an outbreak, as regards how to get tested for herpes, the sores may be examined to determine if they have the characteristics of herpes. The swab test though is not accurate all the time and getting false negative results is a great possibility. This means that if you have an outbreak and the herpes tests come back negative, there is still a chance that there might be a herpes infection. After this and during repeated outbreaks, the tests become even less accurate. It is recommended that a swab be taken during the first 48 hours after the appearance of the lesions. The result is typically ready around a week after.

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Blood test for herpes can be done if there is no visible sign of the infection but the person is worried of having it. Testing for herpes this way is not meant to detect the virus but rather to look at the presence of antibodies in the blood. Various blood tests are available commercially but many of them are not accurate, since they cannot determine the antibodies for both types of herpes (types 1 and 2). Thus, there is a possibility of getting a false positive reading particularly for HSV 2.

Once a person is infected with herpes, the body responds by releasing antibodies to fight the infection. These antibodies are the IgM and IgG. Blood tests are meant to look for these antibodies, since the infection itself is not in the blood. After an infection, IgM is the first antibody that is released by the immune system although it can disappear afterwards. IgG then appears and it remains in the blood forever.

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IgM tests are not reliable in testing for herpes since it is assumed by many that if the antibody is discovered, the infection is quite recent. However, it has been shown in studies that IgM can appear again in the blood test of some sufferers when they have a recurrence while about half of those who have just acquired herpes may turn up to be negative. Thus, the results of the test can be deceptive.

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Testing for herpes is more accurate through IgG tests. Compared to IgM, HSV 1 and HSV 2 can be broken down correctly from IgG antibodies. It has been confirmed in a study done recently that testing facilities that are not using gG tests have more false positives for HSV 2. On the other hand, those that are using gG tests all reported negative for HSV 2 on a blood sample used in the study.