I just started working in a chemistry lab and found out on my first day that someone in the same lab as I am has lip herpes. I am a habitual nailbiter, and while this would be a great opportunity to break my habit of biting nails, even with the best intentions I am still worried that the occasional slip up would happen, and my fingers would touch my mouth after having handled an object the colleague has also handled.

Am I at risk of catching the herpes?

  • I doubt the risk is high, but I am no expert and don't have deep knowledge about herpes.
    – Narusan
    Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 21:20

1 Answer 1


Estimating the risk of communication of two members of the herpesvirus family (Herpesviridae) in this context is very difficult to answer, not only because of lack of research, but because of the many possible environmental factors.

Nevertheless, HSV (Herpes Simplex Virus) survives for short periods of time outside the host (1). It can survive on dry inanimate surfaces, with a survival ranges from a few hours to 8 weeks (2).

The use of disinfectants could certainly help diminish the risk of contagiousness. It can be inactivated by 0.5% Lysol[benzalkonium chloride] in 5 minutes, by 2,000 ppm (2,000 ul/liter) of bleach in 10 minutes, or by rubbing alcohol (1:1 mixtures) (3, 4, 5).

To conclude, prophylactic use of oral acyclovir could be, in extreme cases, an option to reduce risk of communication (6).


  1. Chayavichitsilp, P., Buckwalter, J. V., Krakowski, A. C., & Friedlander, S. F. (2009). Herpes simplex. Pediatrics in Review, 30(4), 119-129.

  2. Kramer, A., Schwebke, I., & Kampf, G. (2006). How long do nosocomial pathogens persist on inanimate surfaces? A systematic review. BMC Infectious Diseases, 6.

  3. Croughan, W. S., & Behbehani, A. M. (1988). Comparative study of inactivation of herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 by commonly used antiseptic agents. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 26(2), 213-215.

  4. Wood, A., & Payne, D. (1998). The action of three antiseptics/disinfectants against enveloped and non-enveloped viruses. Journal of Hospital Infection, 38(4), 283-295. doi:DOI: 10.1016/S0195-6701(98)90077-9

  5. Prince, H. N., & Prince, D. L. (2001). Principles of viral control and transmission. In S. S. Block (Ed.), Disinfection, sterilization and preservation (5th ed., pp. 543-571). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

  6. Prophylactic oral acyclovir after renal transplantation. Pettersson, Erna et al. (http://journals.lww.com/transplantjournal/Abstract/1985/03000/Prophylactic_Oral_Acyclovir_After_Renal.14.aspx)

Ref 1-3 from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/lab-bio/res/psds-ftss/herpes-eng.php

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