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  • Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that causes infected sores and ulcers. Herpes can affect various areas of the body but is most commonly found on the genitals, anus or mouth

  • It’s caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) which can be passed on through close genital contact, including vaginal, anal or oral sex without a condom or dental dam 

  • The blisters heal with time (usually within 2-3 weeks), but the virus that causes them cannot be cured, and herpes outbreaks often reoccur

  • HSV is more common in women than in men especially among 14-49-year olds

It is a non-curable disease. 

Herpes virus

Spread of Herpes

How herpes spreads from person to person

Herpes infection cannot spread through the swimming pool, toilet seat, utensils, bedding and towel etc. But the virus can easily spread with skin to skin contact or through the saliva of an infected person (kissing).

A Condom cannot protect completely from the spread of herpes as there may be infection around the genitals which may not show as sores. Also, not all sores are covered by condom. Best is to avoid the sexual act (oral, anal or vaginal) during the herpes outbreak.

Genital herpes symptoms, treatment and prevention

Symptoms of Herpes

After 2-12 days of exposure or contact with an infected person, symptoms begin to appear

  • Vesicles (fluid filled lesions) on face, genitals, rectum, oral cavity

  • Fever

  • Generalised body aches

  • Swollen lymph nodes

  • Headaches

  • Tingling/shooting pain in hips/buttocks

  • Pain while passing urine

  • Abnormal vaginal discharge in women

Complications of Herpes

  • Untreated infections can infect the nervous system and suppress the immune system further, especially of HIV infected individuals

  • Herpes virus in pregnant women can lead to miscarriage or pre-mature delivery

  • If the child gets the disease during vaginal birth, a serious complication called neonatal herpes can affect the child

Prevention of Herpes

  • Avoid unprotected sexual intercourse, especially with multiple partners

  • Do not share needles/syringes with infected individuals 

  • Pregnant women should abstain from intercourse, especially unprotected, in the third trimester of pregnancy

  • In case of infection, inform your sexual partners and get them checked

  • Suppressive antiviral therapy must be taken to limit the spread

  • C-section delivery should be preferred for Herpes positive mothers to avoid spreading it to the child during vaginal birth

Treatment of Herpes

  • There is no cure for the herpes simplex virus

  • The blisters usually heal and go by themselves, so you may not always need treatment

  • There are antiviral medicines for herpes, which can shorten outbreaks, relieve discomfort and stop symptoms from getting worse

  • The antiviral treatment is most effective when you take it within the first five days of symptoms appearing

  • Avoid touching the blisters as this can also increase the risk of spreading the infection

  • If your herpes treatment requires you to apply cream to a sore, just gently pat the cream on, being careful not to rub around the surrounding area

  • You can ease your symptoms by keeping the affected area clean

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