Sharing a VR headset might give you real life eye herpes

If you thought falling down in front of a small crowd was the worst thing that could happen to you while testing a VR headset, try again. There's a supposed conversation between a game studio and developers going around that suggests public demonstrations of VR headsets could spread ocular herpes.

"Hey Brad, ocular herpes is going around VR headsets, ones that are used to share with people. [Redacted game studio] told us it's going around. Have to clean headsets regularly," the conversation begins.

From there the conversation takes a predictable turn towards being grossed out and then shocked.

"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT!?," one of the responses reads. It goes on to ask, in all caps and with more colorful language, if the game studio is talking about the actual herpes simplex virus. Apparently, yes—the game studio said it happened to an unlucky developer.

The redacted conversation was posted to Twitter by Youtube user Drift0r. It's not clear if this is an isolated incident or if sharing VR headsets has actually caused multiple cases of eye herpes. So, do with that information what you will the next time you're at an event where you're invited to give VR a spin. 

Just reporting on this makes our eyes itch, but in case you're wondering, signs and symptoms of ocular herpes include:

  • Swelling around the eye
  • Tearing
  • Recurrent eye infections
  • Irritation
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Eye redness
  • Eye sores
  • Watery eye discharge
  • Sensitivity to light

The wide range of symptoms could cause your eye doctor to overlook an initial diagnosis. According to the National Eye Institute, 400,000 Americans have had some form of ocular herpes, with nearly 50,000 new and recurring cases getting diagnosed each year. Those stats appear to be from several years ago, before VR made its current run at consumers.

It's worth noting that at every VR demo we've ever attended, the headset was always swabbed clean with an alcohol wipe, making us wonder if this case is due more to cavalier cleaning (or lack thereof) than the headsets themselves. 

Anyway, heads up, folks!

Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).