Understanding Herpes With H Hunter Handsfield Md
Herpes expert H. Hunter Handsfield, MD, explains the basics about genital herpes, including the difference between genital HSV-1 and HSV-2 infection, testing options and the importance of knowing virus type, and the three-prong strategy for prevention. See more herpes videos at sexualhealthTV.com.
Have a question about herpes youd like Dr. Handsfield or our other experts to answer? Visit our Ask the Experts page to learn how.
Do Condoms Help Prevent The Spread Of Genital Herpes
Yes. To prevent transmission of herpes, we recommend that condoms be used 100% of the time. Many patients will shed the virus and be contagious when they dont have symptoms. Studies have shown that asymptomatic shedding occurs between 1% and 3% of the time in patients with HSV II genital infections. Many new herpes infections occur from partners who are shedding the virus asymptomatically, so condoms are highly recommended.
Condoms may not be an attractive option for monogamous couples or for couples who desire to become pregnant. Couples may opt to have serological tests to determine if either partner has an asymptomatic infection. In close monogamous relationships, the risks of transmission can be weighed against other relationship issues, such as intimacy and pregnancy.
Herpes May Be More Common Than You Think
The World Health Organization estimates that globally, 3.7 billion people younger than 50 have oral herpes and 417 million people aged 15-49 have genital herpes.
Dr. Maya Benitez says there has always been a stigma surrounding sexually transmitted diseases, especially herpes.
Stigma aside, it’s stressful to be diagnosed with something with no cure and no direct definitive treatment. And anxiety and stress can trigger outbreaks, says Dr. Benitez.
“It is important for people to learn about the disease and understand it, so that if diagnosed, people will know how to live with it,” she says.
“The likelihood of contracting herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools, or from sharing objects such as silverware, soap, or towels is low, but it is possible”
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How Is It Treated
Genital herpes can be treated, but it cannot be cured.Anti-viral medicines can make outbreaks:
Living with genital herpes causes some people to:
- Feel embarrassed or ashamed
- Worry about infecting a sexual partner
- Worry that having herpes will affect relationships with sexual partners
- Avoid dating or sexual relationships
Most people with herpes are able to live with the virusand manage their outbreaks. Talking to trusted healthcare providers and friends can help. Your health careprovider can talk to you about medicines that treatoutbreaks and about ways to reduce the chance ofpassing the virus on to a sexual partner.
Medicines can help lower the chance that you will pass the virus to others.
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Can I Catch Herpes Simplex Off Towels Cups Or Anything
No, you will not catch it off anything. The virus is caught from the skin, not from objects. It is a delicate virus and dies quickly when away from the skin where the sore is. There is more about transmission in our Transmission leaflet available to members. This statement is taken from the guidelines for doctors produced by the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV.
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How Is It Passed On
Most HSV type 1 infections are acquired during childhood.
You cannot get genital herpes from sharing baths or towels, from swimming pools, toilet seats or from sharing cups, plates or cutlery.
The virus will not pass through a condom but as condoms do not cover all of the genital area it is possible to infect genital skin that is not covered by the condom.
If you already have one type of HSV it is still possible for you to get the other type .
What Is Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is a common viral infection caused by a virus known as the herpes simplex virus .
There are two types of the virus, types 1 and 2 . As well as genital herpes, HSV can infect your mouth and cause cold sores. HSV-1 and HSV-2 infections look the same and you can only tell them apart by lab testing.
Because genital herpes can be passed to others through sexual contact, it is often referred to as a sexually transmitted infection .
As many as 1 in 3 adults has the virus that causes genital herpes. Once you have HSV it remains in your body and becomes active again from time to time.
On average, symptoms of genital herpes are likely to recur 45 times in the first 2 years after being infected with HSV. However, over time the virus tends to become active less often and each time you get symptoms they are less severe.
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Key Points About Cold Sores In Children
Cold sores are small blisters around the mouth caused by the herpes simplex virus.
The herpes simplex virus in a cold sore is contagious. It can be spread to others by kissing, sharing cups or utensils, sharing washcloths or towels, or by touching the cold sore before it is healed. The virus can also be spread to others 24 to 48 hours before the cold sore appears.
Symptoms include a small blister or group of blisters on the lips and mouth that enlarge, leak fluid, then crust over.
In most children, cold sores do not cause serious illness. In some cases, the herpes simplex virus can cause inflammation of the brain . This is a serious illness and needs to be treated right away.
If your child has a cold sore, make sure he or she does not kiss, share cups or utensils, share washcloths or towels, or touch the cold sore.
How Will My Doctor Know If I Have Herpes
Your healthcare provider may diagnose genital herpes by simply looking at your symptoms. Providers can also take a sample from the sore and test it. In certain situations, a blood test may be used to look for herpes antibodies. Have an honest and open talk with your health care provider and ask whether you should be tested for herpes or other STDs.
Please note: A herpes blood test can help determine if you have herpes infection. It cannot tell you who gave you the infection or how long you have been infected.
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Genital Herpes And Pregnancy
It is important to avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy. A first episode during pregnancy can create a greater risk of transmission to a newborn.
Fortunately, it is rare for women with genital herpes to infect their babies. If you know that you have genital herpes before becoming pregnant, your physician will monitor your condition throughout your pregnancy. If you have an active outbreak at the time of delivery, a C-section may be recommended. Depending on individual diagnosis, though, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorses suppressive therapy to reduce the frequency of C-section.
How Can You Catch Herpes
Like most sexual transmitted infections , herpes is passed on when someone with an active outbreak of the virus has sexual intercourse with a partner. It may also be spread by contact with bodily fluids from an infected person, including blood, saliva, vaginal fluid, semen or any fluid expelled from a weeping herpes blister.
The virus is passed onto the other person through tiny breaks in the mucous membranes or skin. Because viruses are very small, herpes can easily spread even if the breaks are only microscopic. This means you cannot conduct a visual inspection of a partner and guarantee that they will not catch the disease.
It is also worth noting that while the virus is generally passed on during the phase when the blisters are visible on the skin, there is also the possibility of infection spreading even when blisters are not showing.
This is due to something called asymptomatic shedding. This is where the virus continues to shed into bodily fluids even when dormant. This kind of shedding is most common during the first 12 months of herpes infections. However, it may continue throughout the life of the infection and you cannot guarantee that because you have no visible sores that your partner will not be infected.
In a monogamous relationship, a female partner carries a substantially higher risk of contracting herpes from an infected male partner than vice-versa.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Most individuals infected with HSV are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed or are mistaken for another skin condition. 9 When symptoms do occur, herpes lesions typically appear as one or more vesicles, or small blisters, on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The average incubation period for an initial herpes infection is 4 days after exposure. 10 The vesicles break and leave painful ulcers that may take two to four weeks to heal after the initial herpes infection. 5,10 Experiencing these symptoms is referred to as having a first herpes outbreak or episode.
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Can I Catch Herpes Again On Another Part Of My Body Can My Partner Catch Herpes Back Off Me On Another Place
It is rare for people to re-catch a virus that they already have for a second time even on a different part of the body. Their immune system defends them against this. The virus does not travel through the body. So a person with a genital infection can kiss or perform oral sex there is no risk of infecting a partner by doing this the virus will not travel inside the body from the genitals to the mouth.
How can I protect my new partner? What about my new partner? How likely am I to infect my new partner?
Already, you are a safer partner than many others because you have been diagnosed so you will avoid sex from the moment you notice the start of an outbreak, until the time when it has totally cleared up. A man with genital herpes can protect a partner easily if his outbreaks appear in the area covered by a condom.
A woman with genital herpes can tell a man that he is half as likely to catch genital herpes from a woman, compared to the chance of a woman catching it from a man. This information can be useful for diagnosed women when talking to a new partner.
Herpes simplex infections are common. Many new partners will have one or both types already but not know. See the governments statistics for new genital herpes infections diagnosed in clinics in 2019 and add a further 53,000 cases which how many are probably diagnosed by GPs.
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My Partner Has Herpes How Can I Avoid Getting It And And Still Have A Fulfilling Sex Life
I just found out the guy Ive been seeing for a couple weeks has herpes. Im full of questions, but one question I keep dwelling on is, how can people get pregnant without passing on herpes to their partner? How can I avoid getting herpes and still have a fulfilling sex life with him?
Its normal to have complicated feelings after you find out that your partner has herpes. Millions of people are living with herpes, and sharing your concerns with your partner and educating yourself on how its spread are good ways to protect yourself.
Genital herpes is spread from skin-to-skin contact with someone who has it including . Herpes can live on areas of your body that arent protected by condoms , so condoms wont always protect you from herpes. But they do lower your chances of getting herpes.
Here are other ways to avoid getting herpes from your partner:
Talk with your partner about taking herpes medicine every day, which can lower their chances of spreading herpes.
Dont have sex during a herpes outbreak, even with a condom. There may be sores on places the condom doesnt cover. Wait until the sores are totally gone, and the scabs heal and fall off.
Does Chlorine Kill Herpes Or Can Herpes Survive In Water
Herpes is most often spread through skin-to-skin contact, according to Cedars-Sinai. Accordingly, the likelihood of getting herpes in a hot tub or pool â without making physical contact with the person who has the virus â is low.
That’s because chemical disinfectants like chlorine do typically kill herpes, according to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Still, it’s possible that you can catch the virus in a pool if you make physical contact with someone with herpes .
Can You Go in a Pool With Shingles?
Shingles, a type of contagious, painful rash, is caused by a herpes virus. However, it’s not the same virus that leads to oral or genital herpes â instead, it’s the same strain of herpes that can lead to chickenpox, per the Mayo Clinic.
Shingles is catchy â you can get it if you make direct contact with the fluid from someone’s rash blisters, per the CDC. And while it’s possible that you can catch it from swimming in the same pool as someone with shingles, you’re much less likely to contract the disease without making contact, as chlorine can kill the herpes virus, per the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
And can you swim in chlorine with shingles? It’s best to avoid pools altogether to prevent spreading it through shared towels and to avoid irritating the rash, per the National Health Service .
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Antiviral Tablets To Stop The Herpes Virus Multiplying
Antiviral medicines taken by mouth, such as valaciclovir or acyclovir, are the most effective in controlling symptoms, although they cant cure genital herpes. They stop the virus from multiplying in body cells where the virus is present. The medicine only works while you are taking it. The infection can come back when you stop taking it.
Antiviral tablets are used in the following two ways:
- To treat outbreaks as they happen : The aim is to shorten the time each outbreak lasts and to relieve symptoms. This works best when taken as soon as you get symptoms and before the blisters appear.
- To prevent or reduce recurrences : If you get frequent or severe recurrent outbreaks, your doctor may recommend you take antiviral tablets every day to help prevent recurrences. Suppressive therapy is taken continuously, every day, for months or years. Suppressive antiviral therapy may help reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to sexual partners.
Antiviral creams bought over the counter from the pharmacy are not recommended as a treatment for a first episode or recurrent genital herpes as they are of little benefit. Antiviral tablets are the preferred treatment.
How Do You Get Herpes
Oral herpes can be spread by oral-to-oral contact like kissing or by sharing drinks.
The likelihood of contracting herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools, or from sharing objects such as silverware, soap, or towels is low, but it is possible, says Dr. Benitez.
While an outbreak isn’t necessary for herpes transmission, herpes is most contagious about 3 days before an outbreak this usually coincides with an itching or burning sensation or pain in the area where the outbreak will occur.
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How Can I Prevent Genital Herpes
If youre sexually active, you can take these steps to protect yourself and others from herpes virus and other STIs:
- Be monogamous with one sexual partner or limit your number of partners.
- Get tested for STIs and complete any needed treatment.
- Tell your sexual partners if you have genital herpes so they can get tested.
- Use condoms, including dental dams during oral sex.
- Wash your hands often if you have an outbreak or are around someone with symptoms.
If your sexual partner has genital herpes, these actions can lower your risk of getting the virus:
- Dont have sex when your partner has active symptoms.
- Make sure your partner takes antiviral medication as prescribed.
- Wait to have sex until scabs fall off.
How Is It Spread
Herpes is passed from person-to-person by direct skin-to-skin contact with a person who has the virus , even without visible herpes sores.
It also is possible to pass herpes if one person touches the part of their body that has herpes and then immediately touches another persons mouth or genitals. Sharing sex toys without changing condoms or washing toys may also pass the virus. During a primary first outbreak, it is possible to pass the virus to another area of that persons own body, by touching the sores and then touching another part of their body .
The chance of passing herpes is highest when there is an active outbreak . However, HSV can still be passed when there are no symptoms , but this is less likely. Women who have an active outbreak in late pregnancy can pass the infection to their baby during a vaginal childbirth.
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What Is The Risk Of Transmission Between Recurrences
Studies have shown that virus may sometimes be found on an infected area, even when there are no visible symptoms. This is called asymptomatic shedding. If enough virus is present when direct skin contact takes place, a partner may become infected.
The fewer recurrences a person has, the less chance there is of asymptomatic shedding.
Preventing The Spread Of Herpes
Even when you do not have sores, you can pass the virus to someone during sexual or other close contact. To protect others:
- Let any sexual partner know that you have herpes before having sex. Allow them to decide what to do.
- Use latex or polyurethane condoms, and avoid sex during symptomatic outbreaks.
- Do not kiss or have oral sex when you have a sore on the lips or inside the mouth.
- Do not share your towels, toothbrush, or lipstick. Make sure dishes and utensils you use are washed well with detergent before others use them.
- Wash your hands well with soap and water after touching a sore.
- Consider using daily antiviral medicine to limit viral shedding and reduce the risk of passing the virus to your partner.
- You may also want to consider getting your partner tested even if they have never had an outbreak. If you both have the herpes virus, there is no risk for transmission.
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