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    Genital herpes is a highly contagious infection usually spread through intercourse with a person with infected sores, but it also can be passed through oral or anal sex. It may also be spread even when sores are not visible.

    Genital herpes can also be transmitted (spread) to a newborn during birth if the mother has an active infection.

    Recommended Related to Genital Herpes

    How to Tell Your Partner You Have Genital Herpes

    You must tell your partner you have genital herpes. If you pick the right time and say it the right way, there's a good chance things will work out OK. Think about how you want your partner to take the news. Do you want it to seem like a huge problem? Of course not, so don't present it that way. If you say, "I have some awful news for you," your partner will likely take it as awful news. Instead, be casual, direct, and unemotional. Also avoid suggesting how he or she should react, especially in...

    Read the How to Tell Your Partner You Have Genital Herpes article > >

    What Causes Genital Herpes?

    Usually, this infection is caused by the herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2), although herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1), the virus responsible for cold sores, is increasingly the cause of the disease. It can be spread by an infected partner who does not have any sores and may not know he or she has the disease.

    How Common Is Genital Herpes?

    At least 45 million American adults and adolescents have genital herpes -- that's one out of every four to five people, making it one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Since the late 1970s, the number of Americans with genital herpes infection has increased 30%, mostly in teens and young adults.

    Genital herpes is more common in women than in men.

    How Do I Know If I Have Genital Herpes?

    Most people infected with genital herpes have very minimal or no signs or symptoms of their disease. The first attack of herpes usually follows this course:

    • Skin on or near the sex organ becomes inflamed. Skin may burn, itch, or be painful.
    • Blister-like sores appear on or near the sex organs.
    • Sores open, scab over, and then heal.

    Symptoms that may also be present when the virus first appears include:

    The first outbreak of herpes can last for several weeks. After the outbreak, the virus retreats to the nervous system, where it remains inactive until something triggers it to become active again.

    Typically, another outbreak can appear weeks or months after the first, but it almost always is less severe and shorter than the first episode. Although the infection can stay in the body indefinitely, the number of outbreaks tends to decrease over a period of years.

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