What is the Herpes Virus?
There are two herpes simplex viruses, HSV-1 and HSV-2. The HSV-1 virus commonly manifests itself as what we call “fever blisters.” It is typically caused by oral-genital or genital-genital contact with a person who is infected with HSV-1.
How Common is Herpes?
Most people with genital herpes have HSV-2. Estimates are that about one in every six people aged 14 to 49 have genital HSV-2. It’s more common in women than men and it’s easier for a woman to contract it from a man than a man from a woman.
How Can You Get Herpes?
You can get genital herpes by coming into contact with the open sores of an infected individual, but you can also get genital herpes by coming into contact with skin that doesn’t appear to have a sore. It’s typically only passed during sexual contact.
What Are the Symptoms of Herpes?
Most people with genital herpes minimal symptoms. One or more blisters may appear around the genitals or rectum. After the blisters break, they leave tender sores that may take from two to four weeks to heal. The first outbreak usually occurs within two weeks of being infected and may be accompanied by flu-like symptoms including fever and swollen glands. Future outbreaks usually take less time to heal and the number of outbreaks typically decreases as time goes on.
How Do I Know if I Have Herpes?
Unless they get an STD test, many people with herpes don’t know they are infected and have no symptoms at all. They might not ever get any sores or may experience a very mild skin irritation that might be mistaken as an insect bite. However, these people are infected and can infect other people with the herpes virus.
How Can I Prevent Getting Herpes?
The best way to prevent getting infected is to abstain from sexual contact. Condoms, when properly used, can reduce the risk of getting herpes but do not eliminate the risk if you have sexual contact with an infected person. There is medication that can also reduce your risk of getting infected and this should be considered for people with suppressed immune systems.
How Can I Get Tested for Herpes?
A healthcare professional can diagnose the herpes virus when someone experiences an outbreak, if the outbreak is typical. She can also take a sample from what appears to be an open sore and test it in the laboratory. Between outbreaks, you can get an STD blood test to check for antibodies to the HSV-1 or HSV-2. If your STD test results are positive for HSV-2 antibodies, you are almost certainly are infected with genital herpes.
Is There a Cure for Herpes?
While there is no cure for herpes, antiviral medicines can help lessen the duration and intensity of outbreaks. Some medications, when taken daily, can also reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
Is There a Link Between HIV and Herpes?
It’s important that you get a herpes test to know if you’re infected with the Herpes HSV-2 virus. Healthcare researchers believe that herpes plays a role in spreading HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. People infected with herpes are believed to be more susceptible to HIV infection and people with herpes and HIV are thought to be more contagious than those without herpes.
Anonymous Herpes Testing
What is your status? Find out! Get tested for the herpes virus and other sexually transmitted diseases so you understand what you have and can treat it properly. Not knowing does more harm than good. If you’re worried about getting an anonymous herpes test, follow our Anonymous STD Testing guide and keep your STD test results anonymous and confidential!
For more information on herpes, read the CDC Fact Sheet on genital herpes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Video – What You Need to Know About Genital Herpes