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Yes, you can contract herpes from a hookah pipe

A viral post raises the question in Atlanta.

ATLANTA — A viral post Thursday by the social content platform "ATL Uncensored" shared a harrowing story from a young woman. Her friends had gone out one night, and in the days that followed they seemingly all broke out with sores around their lips consistent with herpes.

The young woman says in the video that one of the friends went to the doctor. She hadn't been with anyone sexually, and the woman in the video explains "we don't sleep around, we're all single, celibate, waiting for right person, working on school minding our business."

She then explains her friend and the physician were able to work out the suspected culprit for the herpes outbreak: Hookah.

She explains the group grabbed a stray hookah from other people who were leaving the club, and even though they were using new tips, they believe it was "very possible they could've gotten herpes from sharing that hookah."

"This has definitely changed my opinion on hookah, and I don't think I'll ever get a hookah again," she says.


Can you get herpes from a hookah pipe?


  • 2019 study, "A Review of the Pulmonary and Health Impacts of Hookah Use," Annals of the American Thoracic Society
  • 2014 study, "Water-Pipe (Narghile) Smoking: An Emerging Health Risk Behavior," Pediatrics, Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Dr. Tracey E. Barnett, University of North Texas School of Public Health



This is true.

Yes, it's possible to contract herpes from a hookah pipe.


First, it seems intuitively fairly obvious - a hookah pipe, if not well disinfected, involves a lot of mouth contact and therefore the potential sharing of fluids.

As the woman in the video viral put it: "A lot of saliva goes through the pipe."

Beyond that, the scientific literature on hookahs contains several warnings about how herpes - and in some cases other, even more concerning infections - can spread through hookah use.

A paper published in 2019 in the journal Annals of the American Thoracic Society states: "Other manifestations of hookah use include the risk of transmission of infectious disease by sharing of the mouthpiece from user to user; transmission of illnesses such as influenza and oral herpes has been reported."

Then there's a paper from 2014 in Pediatrics, the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics: "Sharing a (water pipe) has been associated with the transmission of tuberculosis. Other pathogens that could potentially be transmitted include hepatitis C, herpes simplex, Epstein-Barr virus, respiratory viruses, and HIV."

Building on that paper in a review in the journal Respiratory Medicine, researchers wrote: "Habibi et al. reported that a risk factor for transmission of hepatitis C virus in the hookah smoking community practice, because sharing the mouthpiece between individuals with gingivitis or any other type of lesion in the oral cavity makes them likely to transmit or be infected. Other viruses that can be transmitted are: Epstein–Barr virus, herpes simplex virus and respiratory virus."

And in a Reuters report on that review, Dr. Tracey E. Barnett with the University of North Texas School of Public Health (at that time, she was with the University of Florida), said: "“One-time use can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning or other diseases, including but not limited to tuberculosis, herpes, respiratory illnesses including the flu, and long-term use can lead to heart disease and many cancers."

So, basically, there's a fairly robust agreement on the matter - it's a possibility.

Now, how likely is it to happen?

That probably depends. There's not as much, if any, scientific research into the frequency that herpes might wind up as an unintended byproduct of hookah use.

A lot probably comes down to proper sanitization practices. Obviously, lots and lots and lots of people use hookah pipes all the time and don't wind up contracting herpes.

But is it possible? We can verify the answer is yes.


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