How long can genital herpes lie dormant in the body before any symptoms show?
Unfortunately, the short answer to this question lies in the fact that many people that are indeed infected with genital herpes never know it as their symptoms are so mild and/or completely nonexistant. This being said, the virus can lie dormant for your entire life-span. You may never notice an initial outbreak, and you may never have any reoccurant outbreaks, and as a result, you may never know you have it.
The only way I know of that can determine if your potential infection is the result of a recent or distant infection is by having a blood test. This test looks for antibodies to the herpes virus. If IgG antibodies are present, this could indicate a latent or distant infection. If IgM antibodies are present, there is no question that the infection is recent. I'm not, however, sure of the time-laspe involved as to when your body actually begins making or transitioning to IgG antibodies. Is this a couple of months after infection, or a year, etc? I'll ask the resident health experts on this site, so look for their reply sometime next week.
Sometimes you could be carrying herpes and never know it. Sometimes a minor stracth or cut can bring out the lesions or maybe there could be a boil on the outer labia(lip) of the vagina and that is also another sign(Personal Expeirence), But all in all herpes is not always detectable on males or females, varying the streng of their immune systems.