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“What the #$@&%*! are you talking about? #$@&%*! herpes? Like eye blisters? Bro, I got a lot of events coming up and this is serious #$@&%*!. Are you using herpes as a generic term or actual #$@&%*! herpes simplex virus!?!?!?”
This is an excerpt of a conversation between two Virtual Reality (VR) developers that has been doing the rounds on social media recently. Apparently, VR headsets are causing ocular herpes among people who are sharing them. The disease is being passed from gamer to gamer in places like trade shows and demo booths where multiple people share the same headset. Naturally, the rumor created mayhem in the VR industry, and now everybody’s scared to use shared objects like game controllers at public conventions.
If you are a gamer, you can now rest easy because medical facts do not support this rumor. Truth is, ocular herpes cannot pass from one human being to another via an inanimate object like a headset.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1/6th of the American adult population carries the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), even if they don’t exhibit any signs or symptoms. The dormant virus can suddenly wake up and become active when the individual’s natural defenses are compromised by illness or other negative physical factors. The eye is one place HSV-1 can show up, in addition to the lip and the nose.
However, the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) cannot live and thrive outside the body and can only be transmitted through person-to-person contact. So if there is indeed any grain of truth behind the rumor, then the affected VR user was already infected with the virus. The VR headset had nothing to do with it.
What is more likely to infect a shared headset is the Adenovirus. It is the same virus that causes conjunctivitis or pink eye and passes from person to person via objects that are touched by a lot of people, like door handles, railings, public toilet flushes and tap etc.
Guard yourself from such contamination by washing your hands before and after handling a shared VR headset. Wipe them down with a bleach wipe – which is more effective than soap and water – and you should be able to enjoy your gaming conferences without unnecessary health scares.
And about that ocular herpes thing from VR headsets – you were never at risk in the first place.