A woman in Hollywood, California, is suing the cosmetics store Sephora after she said she contracted oral herpes from a lipstick tester tube, according to news reports.
The woman said she used one of the sample tubes on display at a Hollywood store in October 2015 and was diagnosed with the herpes virus shortly after.
According to the tabloid news site, TMZ, she filed a lawsuit against the store for failing to warn her that sampling products could possibly lead to contracting the virus and that Sephora owes her for an “incurable lifelong affliction.”
Sephora has since responded to the incident:
"While it is our policy not to comment on litigation, the health and safety of our clients is our foremost priority. We take product hygiene very seriously and we are dedicated to following best practices in our stores."
Infectious disease specialist Amesh Adalja told Live Science that it’s not especially common for someone to get the herpes virus from lipstick. Instead, it’s more likely that the person already had the virus before coming into the store.
Oral herpes is a very common infection. According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 67 percent of people under age 50 have herpes simplex virus type 1 (the virus that causes oral herpes).
Though symptoms of oral herpes can include painful blisters and open sores around the mouth and a tingling or burning sensation in the region, not everyone with the virus will experience the symptoms.
“They may be ‘clinically silent’ but contagious,” Adalja, who is also a senior associate at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security said.
The virus can easily spread through saliva and skin contact, he added.
So if someone with the virus used the lipstick without a disposable applicator and soon after, another person used the same lipstick, the second person could easily become infected.
Depending on environmental conditions (humidity, moisture, etc.), the virus could survive on the lipstick for a couple of hours, Adalja said.
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