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Q: herpes in hot tubs ( Answered,   3 Comments )
Subject: herpes in hot tubs
Category: Health > Conditions and Diseases
Asked by: herring-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 19 Jun 2002 19:21 PDT
Expires: 26 Jun 2002 19:21 PDT
Question ID: 29521
How contagious in Herpes (HSV2)?  Could it be passed in a hot tub
filled with rain water, obviously city water would kill it outright in
moments but sweet sweet rain water?  We're talking about 105F here, a
temperature I'm reasonably comfortable with but Herpes?

Subject: Re: herpes in hot tubs
Answered By: mosquitohawk-ga on 19 Jun 2002 20:03 PDT

Herpesviruses are extremely common with approximately 100 having been
identified in a variety of animal species. All of the herpesviruses
are members of one family, the Herpesviridae, and have certain
characteristics in common, such as their ability to establish latency
during primary infection. This means that following initial infection
the virus remains dormant, to be reactivated by certain triggers such
as an individual’s immune status, stress or sunlight.

Herpes (HSV2) or Herpes simplex virus type 2, the most common cause of
genital herpes, and it's related herpesviruses of which eight have
been identified as infectious to human, are very contagious given the
correct circumstances.

Herpes is spread by direct skin to skin contact, and not by any other
method as is sometimes believed. (For example, the flu virus can be
transmitted through the air.) Herpes is most easily spread when a sore
is present, however, it is also often spread at other times too.
According to "Some people notice itching, tingling or
other sensations before they see anything on their skin. These are
called "Prodromal Symptoms" and they warn that virus may be present on
the skin. Herpes is most likely to be spread from the time these first
symptoms are noticed until the area is completely healed and the skin
looks normal again. Sexual contact (oral, vaginal, or anal) is very
risky during this time."

Considering the ease of transmission by contact, and the close
proximity involved in a hot tub, my recommendation would be to avoid
this situation, because although transmission requires skin to skin
contact, this is a very likely occurence in a slippery hottub... Also,
all websites I have searched indicate you must boil water to destroy
the herpes virus, and unfortunately, although you can certainly endure
a hot 105 degrees, the boiling point of water is 212 degrees
fahrenheit, much more than any person could endure. Hope this helps
and answers your question.


I used the following websites in my research:

U.S. Center for Disease Control

International Herpes Management Forum

National Herpes Hotline 919-361-8488 
(provided by the American Social Health Association)

My search strategy was to use with the following keywords:

1)  herpes virus

2)  herpes virus destroy boil

3)  herpes virus disinfect
Subject: Re: herpes in hot tubs
From: missy-ga on 19 Jun 2002 20:57 PDT
Hi herring, 

I spent several years as a volunteer counselor at Planned Parenthood,
and this question came up often.  The short answer to your question is
"Your chances of contracting genital herpes from sitting in a hot tub
are between highly unlikely and no.  There's a reason it's called a
'sexually transmitted disease'."

Of course, you'll probably be more interested in slightly longer
answers. ;)

Searching on [ "herpes transmission" hot tubs ] and [ "herpes" hot
tubs ]turned up the following:

"An estimated 30 percent of genital herpes infections in the U.S. are
due to HSV-1; presumably, many of these were transmitted during oral
sex. No documented cases have been spread by contact with objects such
as toilet seats or hot tubs. While rare, transmission is possible from
skin-to-skin contact through open sores. Prudent hand-washing and
personal hygiene eliminates that risk."

Women's Health - Genital Herpes,4482,215912_227119,00.html

"Sexual intercourse and oral sex are the only ways genital herpes is
transmitted; it is *not* transmitted by sitting on contaminated toilet
seats, by hot tubs or swimming pools, or through other kinds of
non-intimate contact."

Genital Herpes Fact Sheet

From the Centers For Disease Control:

"How is genital herpes spread?

HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be found and released from the sores that the
viruses cause, but they also are released between episodes from skin
that does not appear to be broken or to have a sore. A person almost
always gets HSV-2 infection during sexual contact with someone who has
a genital HSV-2 infection. HSV-1 causes infections of the mouth and
lips, so-called "fever blisters." A person can get HSV-1 by coming
into contact with the saliva of an infected person. HSV-1 infection of
the genitals almost always is caused by oral-genital sexual contact
with a person who has the oral HSV-1 infection."

Genital Herpes Fact Sheet

"How is Herpes contracted?

The vast majority of cases are transmitted through intimate contact
with the herpes virus. Sexual contact between the genitals is the most
common, but oral-genital sex can also transmit the virus. The herpes
virus exists in warm damp areas and therefore wet or damp towels could
carry the virus, but with less danger. The virus is destroyed by heat
so hot tubs are no threat."

Sexual Health Info Center

"Genital herpes is spread by direct contact with open sores, usually
during sex. If you touch herpes sores, wash your hands with soap and
water to avoid spreading the disease. Herpes is not spread by toilet
seats, bathtubs, swimming pools or hot tubs."

Health Canada

A slightly cheeky answer from The Straight Dope can be found here:

Is it possible to contract herpes from a hot tub or spa?

If, however, you're still uneasy or know someone who is, it never
hurts to contact your local Planned Parenthood clinic for complete and
inexpensive screening for STDs, including genital herpes.  Find a
local clinic here:

Planned Parenthood Health Centers Locator

Hope this helps!

Subject: Re: herpes in hot tubs
From: librarygopher-ga on 19 Jun 2002 21:05 PDT

Mosquitohawk is right -- you should definitely be cautious!  Below are
further materials you may be intersted in checking out.


Hot Tubs in the Hot Seat: Respiratory Illness, Infection Linked to Use
Disinfectant-Resistant Bacteria Identified in Vapors (WebMD Medical
News, 5/10/2000)

A quote from the article:
"According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical
Association, herpes simplex virus, the organism that causes genital
herpes, can be transmitted by using hot tubs because the virus can
live up to four and a half hours on plastic-coated seats that don't
come in contact with the hot tub's chlorinated water, which
inactivates the virus."

The citation for the JAMA article:

Nerurkar, L.S., West, F., May, M., Madden, D.L. and Sever, J.L. (1983)
Survival of herpes simplex in water specimens collected from hot tubs
in spa facilities and on plastic surfaces. Journal of the American
Medical Association 22, 3081-3083.

A brief abstract of the JAMA article take from the following site:

Legionnaires Diesase

"Several health spas were closed temporarily because of possible
nonvenereal spread of herpes simplex virus (HSV) in spa water at these

We collected water specimens from two health spas and studied them for
(1) the presence of HSV; (2) bromine (Br2), chlorine (Cl2), and pH
levels; and (3) the ability of HSV to survive in water. No HSV could
be isolated from the spa water specimens. Spa water had high levels of
Cl2 and Br2, tap water specimens had low levels of Cl2, and distilled
water had no detectable Cl2 or Br2. The addition of spa water to
laboratory stock virus immediately inactivated the virus. The HSV
survived four hours in the tap water and 24 hours in distilled water.

The survival of HSV appeared to be related to the free halogen content
of water. To approximate the conditions of survival of HSV on
plastic-coated benches and seats in spa facilities, HSV was placed on
plastic surfaces in a humid atmosphere at 37 to 40 degrees C.

The virus was found to survive up to 4.5 hours under these conditions.
The survival of HSV from human lesions may be different due to the
presence of tissue secretions and proteins.

Furthermore, transmission may require other factors, such as rubbing
of skin or penetration through abrasions.

However, survival of significant amounts of virus for 4.5 hours on
plastic surfaces suggests that fomites such as these may be
nonvenereal routes of HSV transmission."


Another bit of interesting hot tub info:

Medical College of Wisconsin: Swimming and Waterborne Diseases

"Doesn't the chlorine in the pool, hot tub, and spa kill all the

No. Chlorine does a good job of killing most germs, but it does not
sterilize the water. A few germs can survive normal pool, hot tub, and
spa levels of chlorine for several hours to days. Chlorine must be
maintained at proper levels to kill most germs. The high water
temperature of hot tubs and spas may cause chlorine to evaporate
faster. As a result, chlorine levels in hot tubs and spas need to be
checked more regularly than in swimming pools. Remember: even if you
can smell the chlorine odor the water is not germ free.

Skin infections are the most common infections spread through hot tubs
and spas."


And finally, an article with a bit about the benefits of hot tubs:

National Spa & Pool Institute:  Enjoying Your Spa or Hot Tub


Search strategy:

herpes hot tub

journal of the american medical association herpes hot tubs

hot tubs diseases

enjoying a hot tub


So, while you should be cautious, you should also still have fun!  I
think hot tubs are fabulous!

Take care!

Subject: Re: herpes in hot tubs
From: indicted-ga on 19 Jun 2002 21:38 PDT

The only type of answer to medical questions MUST cite a peer-reviewed
medical journal.  I have just been accepted into medical school so I
obviously must know something of what I'm talking about!  Anyway,
Pedtrical Dermatology says:

"Since herpesvirus has been shown to survive in the hot tub
environment, herpes simplex should be considered as another potential
cause of disease in the spa setting."

Therefore, listen to what was said in the original answer!  Good
hypothesis mosquitohawk!

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