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STD - Genital Herpes
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What is genital herpes?
Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV -1) and type 2 (HSV-2).

How is genital herpes spread?

HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be found and released from the sores that the viruses cause, but they also are released between episodes from skin that does not appear to be broken or to have a sore. A person almost always gets HSV-2 infection during sexual contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection. HSV-1 causes infections of the mouth and lips, so-called "fever blisters." A person can get HSV-1 by coming into contact with the saliva of an infected person. HSV-1 infection of the genitals almost always is caused by oral-genital sexual contact with a person who has the oral HSV-1 infection.

How common is genital herpes?
Genital herpes infection is common in the United States. Nationwide, 45 million people ages 12 and older are infected with herpes. Herpes is more common in women (approximately one out of four women) than in men (almost one out of five).  

Is genital herpes serious?
Herpes usually produces only mild symptoms or signs or no symptoms at all. However, herpes can cause recurrent painful genital sores in many adults, and herpes can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems. Regardless of severity of symptoms, genital herpes frequently causes psychological distress in people who know they are infected.

In addition, herpes can cause potentially fatal infections in infants if the mother is shedding virus at the time of delivery. It is important that women avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy because a first episode during pregnancy causes a greater risk of transmission to the newborn. If a woman has active genital herpes at delivery, a cesarean delivery is usually performed. Fortunately, infection of an infant from women with herpes is rare.

Herpes can make people more susceptible to HIV infection, and it can make HIV-infected individuals more infectious.

What happens when someone is infected with genital herpes?
Most people infected with herpes are not aware of their infection. However, if signs and symptoms occur during the first episode, they can be quite pronounced. The first episode usually occurs within two weeks after the virus is transmitted, and the sores typically heal within two to four weeks. Other signs and symptoms during the primary episode may include a second crop of sores, or flu-like symptoms, including fever and swollen glands. However, most individuals with herpes may never have sores, or they may have very mild signs that they don't even notice or that they mistake for insect bites or a rash.

Most people diagnosed with a first episode of genital herpes can expect to have several symptomatic recurrences a year (typically four or five). These recurrences usually are most noticeable within the first year following the first episode.ea.

Some people who have been infected with genital herpes never experience symptoms at all.
 

How is genital herpes diagnosed?
The signs and symptoms associated with herpes can vary greatly. Health care providers can diagnose genital herpes by visual inspection if the outbreak is typical, and by taking a sample from the sore(s). HSV infections can be difficult to diagnose between outbreaks. Blood tests which detect HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection may be helpful, although the results are not always clear cut.

Is there a cure for herpes?
There is no treatment that can cure herpes, but antiviral medications can shorten and prevent outbreaks during the period of time the person takes the medication. 

How can people protect themselves against infection?
The consistent and correct use of latex condoms can help protect against infection. However, condoms do not provide complete protection because the condom may not cover the herpes sore(s), and viral shedding may nevertheless occur. If either you or your partner have genital herpes, it is best to abstain from sex when symptoms or signs are present, and to use latex condoms between outbreaks. 

Source:
CDC - DIVISION OF SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES PREVENTION

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