Sexually transmitted diseases: Herpes

I have what?!   What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a STD (sexually transmitted disease) caused by the herpes virus type 1 or type 2. It is quite common as studies have shown 1 in 6 people up to the age of 49 years have type 2 herpes.

Most individuals infected with herpes have little or no symptoms, or they mistake the signs for some other condition.  An outbreak may appear as blisters around the genitals, the anus or the mouth.  The blisters break and leave sores that could take up to two to four weeks to heal.

A first time outbreak, however may present with symptoms such as fever, body aches and swollen lymph glands.  Repeat outbreaks are usually shorter duration and less severe than the first outbreak of genital herpes.

Type 1 herpes infections of the genital area can be caused when someone gives “special attention” to her partner through mouth to genital contact when there is a fever blister present.    If the person with genital herpes touches their sores or the fluids from the sores, the virus may be transferred to another part of the body.

The first outbreak may occur as early as 2 weeks after having sexual contact with an infected person, and symptoms can last from 2 to 3 weeks.

A pregnant woman with genital herpes may be advised to take antiviral medication from 36 weeks gestation through delivery to reduce the risk of an outbreak.  If there is an outbreak present during labor, the pregnant woman may undergo a Cesarean section to reduce exposure of the infant.

If a person feels a recurrent outbreak coming because of tingling or odd sensation in that usual area or there are sores present, he should not have sexual intercourse with his partner until all sores have completely healed.  Even without symptoms, a person can still pass the herpes virus to others.

Although there is no cure for herpes, the antiviral medications may prevent or shorten the outbreak episode.