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What Is Herpes?


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What is Herpes?

Herpes is the name that refers to a large family of viruses. Genital herpes, which is a Sexually Transmitted Infection is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV).

What is Herpes Simplex?

HSV is a highly contagious virus easily passed between people. There are two strains of the virus HSV-1 and HSV-2 that can cause symptoms such as cold sores or genital herpes.

Is Herpes the same as cold sores?

As a general rule, cold sores are usually caused by HSV-1 whilst genital herpes is caused by HSV-2. However, there are increasing rates of HSV-1 genital infections as well as cases of oral herpes (HSV-2) transmitted through oral sex.

Herpes symptoms

Herpes can lie dormant for long periods before the initial outbreak. It manifests as painful red blisters that burst and leave open sores around the genital area. There can also be pain when urinating, a fever and aches and pains. Herpes symptoms in men and women can last up to 3 weeks after which the sores eventually heal without leaving any scar tissue. Not everybody with Herpes shows symptoms. Some people carry the virus without ever suffering outbreaks but can still pass it on to others.

What is the Herpes test?

The herpes test is non-invasive and very simple. A doctor takes a swab from a sore and tests the swabbed liquid for the virus.

How often do Herpes outbreaks occur?

After the initial outbreak of Herpes the virus becomes dormant and may flare up again from time to time. Some people with Herpes don’t experience any symptoms whilst others might suffer two or more flare-ups within the first 12 months. Flare-ups can be as frequent as twice a year or once every ten years. In general the frequency and severity declines over time.

How To Treat Herpes

The standard herpes treatment uses an anti-viral drug called acyclovir, which prevents the HSV from multiplying. This reduces the severity of the genital sores and helps shorten the time during which the virus is symptomatic.

What medication is there for a Herpes cure?

There is currently no cure for Herpes. The virus establishes lifelong infections and cannot be eradicated completely. Anti-viral medication can help with the symptoms but does not prevent future re-occurrences.

How is Herpes transmitted?

Herpes is transmitted either through an exchange of bodily fluids during sex or though skin-to-skin contact of an infected region and a cut or graze.

How can I protect myself from Herpes?

Practicing safe sex significantly lowers the risk of contracting an STI. This means that while having vaginal or anal or oral sex, whether that's homosexual, heterosexual, you should use condoms. If you have had a herpes outbreak before you can still pass on the virus to a partner even if you aren’t symptomatic at the time of sex.


http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Genital-herpes/Pages/Introduction.aspx

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herpes_simplex_virus

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Cold-sore/Pages/Introduction.aspx

 

10595 March 2012

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