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Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about herpes. If you don't find the answer for your questions, you can post your questions here and we will answer your questions as soon as possible.

What is herpes?

Herpes is a common STD (sexually transmitted disease). Herpes includes HSV-1 (usually cold sore) and HSV-2 (usually genital).

HSV-1 can cause genital Herpes, but it more commonly causes infections of the mouth and lips, so-called "fever blisters." HSV-1 infection of the genitals can be caused by oral-genital or genital-genital contact with a person who has HSV-1 infection. Genital HSV-1 outbreaks recur less regularly than genital HSV-2 outbreaks.

There is no cure for Herpes, but treatment is available to reduce symptoms and decrease the risk of transmission to a partner.

What are the symptoms of herpes?

Symptoms usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals or rectum. The blisters break, leaving tender ulcers (sores) that may take two to four weeks to heal. The first outbreak usually occurs within two weeks after the virus is transmitted. Outbreak can appear again weeks or months after but it is usually less severe and it usually lasts shorter than the first time. The number of outbreaks usually decrease over a period of years.

Other symptoms may include a second crop of sores, and flu-like symptoms, including fever and swollen glands. However, many people with herpes never have sores, or they have very mild signs that they do not even notice or that they mistake for insect bites or another skin condition.

How common is herpes?

Herpes is a common STD in the US. Study shows that about 1 in 6 people have herpes and HSV-2 is more common in women. Transmission from an infected male to his female partner is more likely than from an infected female to her male partner.

How do people get herpes?

HSV-1 is transmitted through oral secretions or sores on the skin, can be spread through kissing or sharing objects such as toothbrushes or eating utensils. In general, a person can only get HSV-2 infection during sexual contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be spread even if sores are not present. Pregnant woman can pass herpes on to the baby during childbirth.

How is herpes diagnosed?

Health care providers can diagnose Hhrpes by visual inspection if the outbreak is typical, and by taking a sample from the sore(s) and testing it in a laboratory. HSV infections can be diagnosed between outbreaks by the use of a blood test. Blood tests, which detect antibodies to HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection, can be helpful, although the results are not always clear-cut.

How can herpes be prevented?

Genital ulcer diseases can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered or protected by a latex condom, as well as in areas that are not covered. Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of herpes.

People who have herpes should abstain from sexual activity with uninfected partners when lesions or other symptoms of herpes are present. It is important to know that even if a person does not have any symptoms he or she can still infect sex partners. Sex partners of infected persons should be advised that they may become infected and they should use condoms to reduce the risk. Sex partners can seek testing to determine if they are infected with HSV. A positive HSV-2 blood test most likely indicates a genital Herpes infection.