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Can a herpes outbreak cause Sepsis?

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Ok folks, so this may sound like a strange question but this is what happened to me/my ex boyfriend at around the same time that I got the herpes diagnosis.


I started dating this guy at the beginning of September, it all took off really quickly and before we knew it we were being intimate with each other. A couple of weeks into the relationship, I started feeling unwell with a sore throat. I went to the drs and he told me that it was a viral infection and that he couldn't give me anything for it so he sent me home and told me to take paracetomol and hot lemon. A week passed and then one night, during sex, I had a painful stinging sensation and so we had to stop. The following morning I had a strong burning sensation when I peed and blood in my urine! I went to the drs again and this time was seen by another dr. He told me that the virus that I had had the week before probably had spread and that it had now caused a bladder infection. He prescribed me a course of antibiotics and took a urine sample too (the urine sample was a dark red/brown colour) and this really worried me, not to mention that the burning sensation when peeing was now excruciating! Anyway, I was due some days off work as I'd booked them off earlier on in the year and went to stay at my boyfriend's place as we had planned to go to London to watch a West End theatre production. In the meantime, he starts up with a fever and takes to his bed so we cancelled the London show and I stayed with him and took care of him while he was laid up in bed. He kind of recovered the next day, well enough for us to go out in the evening and so I just thought it was strange that we were both unwell at the same time (bear in mind I was still on antibiotics and not feeling 100% myself) anyway, the following day he was violently ill with uncontrollable shakes and a high fever so I ended up taking him to the hospital to the A & E (Accident & Emergency) department which would be the equivalent of your Emercency room, and they rushed him in and diagnosed him as having Sepsis! He was immediately put on IV antibiotics and treated for that. He was in hospital for a total of 12 days, in which time I too was going back and forth to my drs who then advised me to to to our local sexual health clinic as I'd come up with some spots on my loser back and vagina. The dr thought that I was having a shingles outbreak and so prescribed me Aciclovir 800mg to be taken 5 times a day! I went to the sexual health clinic and they took swabs and bloods and the dr there told me that he was pretty sure that I had contracted herpes but that we should wait for the test results to come in. On hearing this I immediately phoned my boyfriend and told him to also get himself checked out as I thought that the herpes virus was probably the thing that had caused his sepsis. The hospital carried out the tests but on discharging him the results still hadn't come through. I, on the other hand, got my result through and they proved to be positive. When he eventually got his results through, he told me that they were negative! Now I don't believe that they were negative as what was it that caused his Sepsis? It was too much of a coincidence that he fell so ill (with also a burning sensation when peeing) and a high fever with uncontrollable shakes. I believe that he is lying and that he has got herpes. I later found out that he is a womaniser and has had multiple partners and believe that he was carrying the virus within him and passed it on to me. His immune system must have been very low and he ended up having the Sepsis attack. Does anyone know whether the Sepsis and herpes could be linked in this instance please? I know it couldn't have been me that had the virus as my last partner way over 3 years ago and we used protection.


Any suggestions or ideas on this would be gratefully appreciated.


Thanks and love to all.

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If its to do with herpes.. I had uncontrollable shakes for the first few months, but never since. I think that would only be during the initial stage. At a time when your body's trying to fight a new virus, I think antibiotics can hamper the process because it indiscriminately kills bacteria in your gut. I dont think your boyfriends stinging whilst peeing is likely to be H..

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If he has just acquired it recently like the shakes/back pain suggests, it would be too early to show up on a blood test (need to wait 3 months). However, the NHS doesnt cover herpes blood tests, only swabs of blisters.. so unless he paid privately or it was imperative for the hospital to find out, I'd be skeptical that he's been tested. Maybe ask him to try and get a copy of the results, because the numbers can show how accurate the diagnosis is. Unfortunately, hsv blood tests can be pretty inaccurate.. part of the reason we dont use them in the UK.

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Hi Sil,


Yes, that's what I'd thought and told him as much when I last saw him and had it out with him (he'd dumped me via Whatsapp and I wasn't having any of that) so I turned up at his place and told him, amongst other things, that he would have to get tested in 3 months time again as it was possibly too early to be picked up. I too am skeptical, however, that he ever actually got tested. Whether he goes back to get tested in 3 months time or not I won't actually know as we have gone our separate ways but one thing is for sure; if he keeps being in denile he'll just keep on infecting other women that he sleeps with and believe me, I found out too late that he's a womaniser!


Thanks for your reply, Sil.

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Sepsis is very serious, and it can lead to organ failure and death. Most of these infections are caused by bacteria, not viruses or fungus, although in rare cases that can happen. I would say 95% of our cases are due to a UTI or kidney infections that have been untreated for too long. Cue the symptoms he had- burning while urinating and lower back pain. Typical for someone that may have a kidney infection.


Again, it's highly unlikely his sepsis was caused by a virus or fungus. Since he was on IV antibiotics- it was bacterial. Antibiotics does nothing for anything but bacterial infections. He would have died if it were viral and they gave him antibiotics to treat it. And since he was septic, they most likely did blood cultures and therefore know exactly what type of bacteria they were dealing with.


I'm not saying that he does not have herpes, but I think you're taking a huge leap thinking the sepsis is related-just because of his symptoms, what I know of sepsis, and his treatments in the hospital. Antibiotics do not kill viruses.


That being said, most people at risk for sepsis are either very young/old, or have underlying immune issues such as HIV, Cancer, Diabetes. Have an injury or inserted devices (catheters). Curious.

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I hear what you're saying, MMissouri. It was strange, however, that he fell ill within a few days of me and with similar symptoms. Granted, his symptoms were more severe than mine but we were both ill at the same time which makes me suspect that he has got some kind of STI as well. I was tested for all the other STIs and they all came back clear. I think he needs to be retested in 3 months time to get a more accurate diagnoses re the Herpes though.

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@DonnaItaliana If you haven't yet a taken an IgG blood test, perhaps this would help ease your mind in determining whether you've been infected for a while or were only recently infected by this man who developed sepsis. If you did contract it from him (or from the previous boyfriend, for that matter, since condoms only partially protect from HSV), it is more likely than not that he did not know he was infected. More than 80% of those who are infected don't know.


As for the sepsis symptoms you mentioned, I once developed sepsis as a result of a bladder infection that was untreated and led to a kidney infection. I had all the same symptoms you mentioned and it was unrelated to HSV. It was BY FAR the sickest I've ever been in my life.

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Hi Optimist,


Thanks for your reply. How would I go about getting an IgG blood test? Would my local GUM clinic (sexual health clinic) do one on request? I did have a blood test as well as having swabs taken that then subsequently came back as HSV positive. I would really like to know whether it was him or whether I'd contracted it years ago and that it was lying dormant all this time.


He may well have just had a bladder infection (they checked his kidneys and said that they were fine) and the HSV may not have then been transmitted to me by him. I know that the sepsis has knocked him for six and that he was, and probably still is, very ill with it.

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@DonnaItaliana If you had swab tests and blood tests relatively soon after your first recognizable outbreak and both were positive, I would think this was an established infection, not a new infection. If the swab was positive and the blood was negative, then it is more likely to be a new infection, especially if it's HSV2 (there's a higher rate of false negatives with IgG tests for HSV1).


If you don't already have this info, I would suggest (1) confirming the blood test you've already had was an IgG test, (2) confirming HSV type (genital herpes can be caused by HSV1 or HSV2), (3) if positive, looking at the numeric value of the positive result. If the numeric value is lower than 3.5, it could indicate a newer infection or even a false positive. If the numeric value was above 3.5, that's considered definitively positive and would also indicate an established infection rather than a recently acquired infection.

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Did they specifically tell you the blood test was for herpes too? Usually the bloods they take at a GUM clinic are for other infections.. HIV, syphillis, hep. I've tried to get a blood test with the NHS, but they were adamant that they only use swabs. You can pay a private company to test your blood for antibodies though.. just make sure it's type specific since 70%+ will come back positive for hsv1 anyway (impossible to determine location). Also bear in mind they are not completely reliable - these two things together are probably why the NHS decides to spend its budget elsewhere.

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Actually I'm pretty sure that the bloods were taken to look for any other STIs and that it wasn't an IgG but I'm going to phone the clinic and have them clarify it. They didn't tell me what type it was either, whether it was 1 or 2, so I'll have them clarify that too. The only thing they said for sure, was that it was herpes.


It's worrying how much they don't explain. I'd said, at the appointment, how I'd read online, that I knew the virus could lie dormant for years and voiced my concern as to whether I'd been infected by my latest partner who had also been hospitalized for sepsis or whether I'd had it lying dorman in me for years and contracted it from any previous partners. The dr didn't seemed concerned and just ignored what I'd just said.


Thanks to you both, optimist and Sil88 for your replies. I will definitely keep you both updated with the outcome of my talk with the GUM clinic.

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I just found this article online




It's interesting that they say the following about the index value, in particular about the lower index value:


“People use the index value incorrectly in a couple of ways,” Morrow explains. “One is that they infer that a low index value means that infection has occurred recently.


Any thoughts on this? I've searched online with regards to index values and the IgG blood test and this is the only one I've found so far that makes reference to the index value and it's interpretation as to determining whether an infection is a new or established one.


By the way, my GP has written me out a blood test request for the IgG test and I will be going to have it done tomorrow. She's unsure, however, that the local hospital will actually do this test.

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It's true that you are not suppose to base it on the index levels, they are in place just to confirm a positive so to speak.


The bottom line is no testing can tell you for sure when you've acquired herpes when you're sexually active unless you've been routinely tested (which doesn't happen) and it was negative (and then you have to wonder if it was truly negative or falsely negative-meaning you possibly tested too soon for the antibodies to reach detectable levels).


If he was telling the truth on the negative result, then it's possible you've had it all this time. But even so, he might very well be positive 3 months down the line.


Sorry, a lot of it is just guesstimating. If either of you were sexually active before getting together, then the possibility is that either one of you could have had it and just didn't know.


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  • 1 year later...

I've developed sepsis twice in the last five years.


Any infection, viral or bacterial, can trigger sepsis.


Sepsis is not an illness, in and of itself, but rather the body's reaction to infection. You and I might develop the same bacterial infection, for instance, but my body might respond with a sepsis reaction while yours does not.



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