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

Dear Cecil:

Is it possible to contract herpes from a hot tub or spa? I heard that the high water temp supports the little devils and the water offers a medium for transmission. Say it ain't so.

Cecil replies:

It ain’t, strictly speaking. The herpes virus does not survive well in temperatures much above body heat. There’s some indication that heat does encourage outbreaks in already-infected individuals, but that doesn’t have anything to do with transmission. On the other hand, researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that the virus can survive for several hours on the plastic coated benches found near hot tubs at many clubs and spas. In fact, users of several spas in the Washington, D.C., area complained a while back that they contracted herpes without benefit of sexual activity, which to my mind has to be one of the all-time bummers. Fortunately, soap effectively annihilates the little suckers, so if you’re concerned about your tub … well, rub-a-dub-dub, Bub.

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