Herpes Virus Infection

Herpes Virus Infection

What is Herpes?

Genital Herpes is a disease caused by infection with Herpes simplex virus (HSV). One in five sexually active women (and one in nine men) under 50 years of age has HSV infection in the United States.

What causes Herpes infection?

There are two types of Herpes virus (HSV1 and HSV2) that can cause genital herpes. It is a sexually transmitted infection and is acquired by coming into contact with infected sore, genital or oral secretions. HSV can be shed from skin that appears normal. HSV virus can stay in the body indefinitely.

How do I know if I have Herpes infection?

Most men and women infected with HSV have no symptoms. Typical sore starts as one or more small painful blisters that break down into open ulcers that look like canker sores. The first infection is often more severe and lasts longer, along with fever, body ache, headache and swollen glands in the groin. Subsequent outbreaks may go unnoticed but often occur in the same location as a sore. One may notice some tingling or pain at the site even before a blister appears. The outbreaks usually become less frequent over the years.

How is Herpes diagnosed?

A Q tip is used to take a sample from the sore and the virus can be identified in culture. If you do not have an open sore, a blood test can detect antibodies to HSV. HSV testing is recommended only if you have been exposed to sexually transmitted infection (STD), have a sore, have a partner who has Herpes or if you have compromised immunity.

How is Herpes treated?

While there is no cure for Herpes, antiviral medications can shorten duration of outbreaks and often prevent outbreaks if you take the medication daily.

Can Herpes be transmitted to my baby when I am pregnant?

If you get infected with HSV for the first time during pregnancy, there is a risk for the baby to get infected through the blood stream. If you have an open sore in the vaginal area when you are in labor, delivery by cesarean section is the current recommendation in order to reduce the risk of infection of the baby.

How can I prevent infection with HSV?

Abstaining from sexual contact, mutually monogamous long term relationship with a partner who has tested negative for HSV and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of infection with HSV.

Where can I get more information?