Munson Health
 
Genital Herpes

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by Alan R

(Herpes, Genital; Herpes Genitalis; Herpes Simplex, Genital)

 

Causes

The virus enters the body through genital areas, the mouth, or a break in the skin. After the first outbreak, the virus moves to nerve endings at the base of the spine. It will remain there until the next outbreak.
The virus can be spread with:
  • Direct contact with an infected person—such as having contact with the vagina, penis, anus, or mouth (can include sexual or non-sexual contact)
  • Fluid from herpes blisters that gets on other parts of the body
  • Pregnancy or childbirth—an infection can pass from mother to her child
The virus is most easily spread when there are blisters. However, the virus may still spread to others when there are no visible skin sores.
 

Symptoms

Symptoms depend on whether or not this is your first episode. The virus remains quiet between outbreaks. During this time, you may not have visible symptoms, but the virus may still be shedding. This means the virus can be spread during sex.
The number of outbreaks varies. They may decrease over time.

Primary Infection

Primary infection is when you are first exposed to the virus. You may not have any symptoms or you may feel like you have the flu . This can include fever, muscle aches, and swollen glands. Blisters may appear in the genital area or other areas.
It may take about 2-6 weeks for the primary infection to resolve.

Recurrent Infection

A recurrent infection happens when the virus is reactivated in your body. The severity of the outbreak, how long it lasts, and how much is shed all vary.
In most cases, recurrent infections are shorter and less severe. They will also tend to produce smaller and fewer ulcers. The blister or ulcer area may have pain, tingling, burning, or itching.
 

Prevention

Prevention strategies include:
  • Use latex condoms
  • Avoid oral, anal, or genital sex if your partner has herpes blisters
  • Avoid touching blisters to prevent spreading to other parts of the body
If you are pregnant and have herpes, tell your doctor. Steps can be taken to help prevent your newborn from getting the infection.
 

RESOURCES

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
http://www.acog.org

International Herpes Alliance
http://www.herpesalliance.org

 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
http://www.sieccan.org

 

References


Berkow R. The Merck Manual of Medical Information . New York, NY: Pocket; 2000.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Seroprevalence of herpes simplex virus type 2 among persons aged 14-49 years--United States, 2005-2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2010;59(15):456-459.


Genital herpes: lifestyle tips. National Women's Health Resource Center, Inc. (NWHRC) website. Available at: http://www.healthywomen.org/condition/genital-herpes . Updated October 20, 2010. Accessed October 7, 2012.


Genital herpes. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/genitalHerpes/understanding/Pages/transmission.aspx . Updated January 26, 2011. Accessed October 7, 2012.


Corey L, Bodsworth N, et al. An update on short-course episodic and prevention therapies for herpes genitalis. Herpes . 2007;14:Suppl 1:5A-11A.


Herpes genitalis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated June 2008. Accessed October 7, 2012.


Herpes simplex. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org/skin-conditions/dermatology-a-to-z/herpes-simplex/who-gets-causes/herpes-simplex-who-gets-and-causes . Accessed October 7, 2012.


6/14/2012 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Neonatal herpes simplex virus infection following Jewish ritual circumcisions that included direct orogenital suction—New York City, 2000-2011. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2012;61:405-409.

 

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