In most cases, the herpes virus is transmitted through sexual intercourse or oral/genital sex. Herpes is spread most easily during active episodes, when sores are present. But herpes can be transmitted in the time just before sores appear. Getting the herpes virus from a partner without symptoms is fairly common, as most people who have herpes are more likely to have sex when theyre not having an outbreak.
In rare instances, the herpes virus can be spread through more casual contact, such as through hand contact. This is particularly true for people with weakened immune systems from conditions such as cancer or AIDS.
The only way to be sure to avoid herpes is to practice abstinence. Safe sex with condoms and the spermicide nonoxynol-9 can reduce your risk of transmitting or receiving the virus but cannot eliminate it. For the protection of both partners, men should always wear condoms when engaging in intercourse, oral sex or anal sex. Dental dams can reduce the risk for transmission when a woman is receiving oral sex.