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Genital Herpes Health Center

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Genital Herpes Glossary of Terms


fever blister

Fever blister is another common name for a cold sore.


Genital herpes affects not only the reproductive organs, but also the anus, perineum (skin between the anus and reproductive organs), and inner thighs, in addition to the penis shaft, foreskin, urethra, glans (head), and scrotum of a man, and the vagina, cervix, labia, clitoris, and urethra of a woman.


HSV stands for herpessimplex virus. There are two types: Type 1 usually infects the mouth and type 2 usually infects the genitals. The two types are referred to as HSV-1 and HSV-2.


Latex rubber comes from a tree. When you're advised to use a latex condom, it means you should not use "lambskin" condoms, which are made from sheep intestines. Latex is a strong, flexible material. It's also a good barrier to most sexually transmitted viruses since viruses are too big to pass through the microscopic holes in the material. The animal tissue from which some condoms are made has microscopic holes big enough for some of these pathogens to pass through. Condoms made of polyurethane -- a synthetic material -- are a good alternative to latex for people who have a latex allergy.

mucous membrane

This is tissue that lines a body cavity and contains mucous-secreting glands. The linings of the mouth, the vagina, rectum, and urethra are mucous membranes.

primary infection

Primary infection is when a virus first enters the body and takes up residence. Some symptoms of primary HSV-2 infection are different from the recurrent symptoms that come later.

recurrent, recurrence

Herpes is a recurrent infection. That means the infection never goes away. The symptoms may disappear for a while, but they may come back periodically. Something like the flu, for example, is not a recurrent infection. Once it runs its course, it's gone, and you don't have the flu again until you're infected with another flu virus.

replicating, replication

Replication is how a virus reproduces. It simply makes copies of itself. A copy is exactly the same as the original, unless a mutation (a mistake, basically) takes place when the DNA is being copied. In that case it becomes a new kind, or strain, of virus.

sexual activity, having sex

Sexual activity or "having sex," in reference to sexually transmitted diseases, includes penile-vaginal intercourse and penile-anal intercourse, as well as oral-vaginal (cunnilingus), oral-penile (fellatio), and oral-anal (analingus) stimulation. The definition does not include masturbation, rubbing bodies through clothes, and other things that may be thought of as sexual but don't carry a risk for infection.


The herpes virus "sheds" when it's replicating on the skin's surface. The virus is contagious then, because it can rub off on another person.

suppressive therapy

Suppressive therapy for genital herpes involves taking antiviral drugs every day to keep viral replication in check and makes the recurrence of symptoms less frequent.


WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Debbie Bridges, MD on August 06, 2012

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