One in five Americans has genital herpes -- but many don't know it because the symptoms can be mild or even absent. Genital herpes is usually spread by sexual contact and caused by the type 2 herpes virus (HSV-2). However, the type 1 herpes virus (HSV-1), which more commonly causes cold sores, can also infect the genitals -- usually through oral sex.
There's no cure for genital herpes. Once infected, you're infected for life.
Herpes is most often spread from active sores. But you don't have to...
Talk with your partner about STIs before
beginning a sexual relationship. Find out whether he or she is at risk for an
STI. Remember that it is quite possible to have an STI without
knowing it. Some STIs, such as
HIV, can take up to 6 months before they can be
detected in the blood.
Avoid sexual contact if you have symptoms
of an STI or are being treated for an STI.
Avoid sexual contact
with anyone who has symptoms of an STI or who may have been exposed to an
Don't have more than one sexual relationship at a time. Your
risk for an STI increases if you have several sex partners.
Vaccines that can prevent a
genital herpes infection are not currently available. But research has shown
that an HSV-infected person in a heterosexual, single-partner (monogamous)
relationship who takes the
antiviral medicinevalacyclovir daily to prevent
recurrent outbreaks also reduces the risk of infecting his or her
partner.2 Other antiviral medicines may also reduce
transmission, but further study is needed.
Condom use reduces the risk of
spreading or becoming infected with an STI, including genital herpes. Condoms
must be in place before beginning any sexual contact. Use condoms with a new
partner until you are certain he or she does not have an STI. You can use
male or female condoms.
Even if you are
using another birth control method to prevent pregnancy, you may wish to use
condoms to reduce your risk of getting an STI.
Female condoms are available for women whose male
partners do not have or will not use a condom.
that people abstain from sex while they feel tingling or pain in the genital
area, which may mean that an HSV outbreak is coming (prodrome), or when a
genital herpes blister or sore is present. At other times, condoms help reduce
transmission of HSV even when blisters or sores are not present.
Genital herpes and pregnancy
A woman who gets
genital herpes while she is pregnant is at risk of passing the infection to her
baby during delivery. A newborn can become seriously ill if infected with the
herpes simplex virus. For this reason it is very important to prevent genital
herpes infection during pregnancy.
Tell your doctor if you have been exposed to
genital herpes or have had an outbreak in the past.
Let your doctor
know if you are currently having an outbreak of genital herpes, especially if
it is during the last part of your pregnancy.
Avoid unsafe sex.
Genital herpes infection is often transmitted by people who do not know they
are infected and do not have symptoms. Use condoms.
oral sex from partners who have
cold sores. Herpes in newborns can be caused by HSV-1,
the virus that most commonly causes cold sores. Most experts advise pregnant
women not to receive oral sex in the last three months of their pregnancy. It
increases their risk of genital infection with HSV-1.
Antiviral medicine can be used safely in pregnancy to reduce
the number of outbreaks or shorten the length of an outbreak.
Acyclovir (Zovirax) is used in the last 4 weeks
of pregnancy to reduce the risk of a recurrent outbreak at the time of delivery. This lower risk, in turn, makes it less likely that delivery by cesarean section will be needed.
If you are having a genital herpes outbreak, wash your
hands after using the bathroom or having any contact with blisters or sores.
This is especially important for people who are caring for babies.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
December 21, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this