WHAT IS HERPES?
Herpes is the name given to a group of viruses that cause a number of human illnesses. Herpes is a Greek word that means - "to creep." The Herpes virus can hide inside the body for a long time without causing harm. Then, all of a sudden, it can creep out of hiding and cause problems.
WHAT ARE EXAMPLES OF THE HERPES VIRUS?
Almost everyone gets at least one herpes infection at some time in their life. However, most herpes infections are not sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Examples of non-STD herpes infections include chicken pox, shingles, severe infections, recurrent illnesses, infectious mononucleosis, non-venereal cold sores and fever blisters.
WHAT IS THE HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS?
There are two strains of the herpes simplex virus. Both strains cause cold sores and fever blisters, and both strains pass from person-to-person by physical contact.
WHAT IS HSV-1?
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is non-venereal and is passed by kissing or touching someone with a cold sore or fever blister. Generally, HSV-1 occurs above the waist.
WHAT IS HSV-2?
Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) is venereal and is passed by having sexual contact with someone infected with genital herpes. Genital herpes and HSV-2 are different terms for the same STD. Generally, HSV-2 occurs below the waist.
HOW DOES SOMEONE GET GENITAL HERPES?
Genital herpes spreads by direct skin-to-skin contact. The main ways to get this STD are by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone infected with HSV-2. However, someone with HSV-1 who performs oral sex on their partner can infect her or him with genital herpes.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN SOMEONE FIRST GETS GENITAL HERPES?
Symptoms of genital herpes usually appear from two to 20 days after infection. In some cases, a first attack can be mild and go unnoticed. Generally, however, the symptoms are most severe during the first attack. Initial symptoms may include burning, itching or numbness around the infected area, followed by headache, fever, muscle ache, swollen glands and burning sensation during urination and, for females, vaginal discharge.
DOES ANYTHING ELSE HAPPEN?
About ten days after the first attack, symptoms can get worse and the skin usually becomes inflamed. In most cases, one or more blisters, bumps or oozing sores appear at the site of infection: penis, vagina, anus, buttocks or thighs. Having oral sex with a person infected by HSV-2 almost may cause sores on the lips or inside the mouth.
HOW LONG DOES THIS LAST?
The first outbreak of HSV-2 can last as long as several weeks. When the sores heal completely, the "active Phase" of infection is over. The virus retreats into the nervous system and goes into an "inactive phase.
DOES GENITAL HERPES RECUR?
YES. Genital herpes can return. Some people infected by HSV-2 have frequent recurrences, and others seldom have them. On average, sufferers of genital herpes have about four recurrences per year. What is important to know is that once HSV-2 gets into the body, the person is INFECTED and CONTAGIOUS for life. In other words, when someone gets this infection, for the rest of their life he or she can transmit it to everyone with whom they have sexual contact.
WHAT CAUSES A RECURRENCE?
HSV-2 remains in its inactive phase until activated. People infected with genital herpes report that the following factors are sometimes associated with an outbreak.
Over-exposure to the sun
Vigorous sexual intercourse
WHEN IS GENITAL HERPES MOST LIKELY TO TRANSMIT TO OTHERS?
A person infected by HSV-2 can transmit the virus any time he or she is having sex with another person. Transmitting genital herpes is most likely when a sore is present, but it also can transmit to others when there are no visible sores or symptoms.
IS THERE A CURE FOR GENITAL HERPES?
There is NO CURE for genital herpes. The person with HSV-2 is infected and contagious for life. However, there aredrugs that can reduce the frequency and duration of genital herpes outbreaks. Furthermore, it is important to keep the infected area clean and dry during an outbreak. Finally, proper diet, exercise and rest help control the virus.
HOW CAN I PROTECT AGAINST GENITAL HERPES?
Sexual abstinence (not having sex) is the best way to protect against HSV-2. Several other ways to lower the risk of getting syphilis include the following.
Practice monogamy (having sex only with a non-infected partner who has sex only with you)
Choose your sex partner carefully
Have your partner tested for genital herpes and other STDs
Properly use a latex condom throughout the sexual encounter
Use spermicidal foams and jellies in addition to condoms for added protection
Urinate a few minutes after sex to wash away germs
Wash the hands and genitals immediately after sex to remove germs