Can Valacyclovir Prevent Herpes Transmission
Medically reviewed by Michele Emery, DNP
Valacyclovir is one of the most common and effective medications used to manage HSV-1 and HSV-2, two variants of the herpes simplex virus. While valacyclovir provides treatment for and management of herpes symptoms, its not a cure for the virus.
However, can it also act as a way of preventing herpes transmission? Scientific data shows that while valacyclovir is helpful in reducing the risk of herpes transmission, it isnt a 100% effective drug for preventing herpes entirely.
In this guide, well look at some of the study data on valacyclovirs effectiveness for preventing herpes transmission, as well as how the drug can be used to reduce your risk of infecting other people if you have HSV-1 or HSV-2.
How Do I Take Suppressive Therapy
There are two oral antivirals available for suppressive treatment in New Zealand:
- Aciclovir tablets 400mg taken twice daily, morning and night. If you start suppressive therapy, it is important not to miss any doses and to take it regularly at approximately 12 hourly intervals. If your recurrences are not suppressed by this dose, you should discuss this with your doctor as taking 200mg four times a day may be more effective. Aciclovir is also available in a soluble form if you are unable to swallow tablets.
- Valtrex tablets 500mg taken once a day. People who find aciclovir isnt working in treating problematic recurrent herpes can now access Valtrex by fully subsidised prescription from their doctor through a Special Authority application. This is a new generation antiviral with better absorption.
Herbal Remedies May Also Offer Relief
Research supports the use of certain botanical remedies. You may want to try one or more of these:
Long dan xie gan tan This Chinese herbal formula has been used to quell symptoms and reduce herpes outbreaks. Its English name is clear liver fire pills. In at least one study, the formulawas shown to inhibit the activity of HSV-1 and HSV-2.
Chinese herbal medicine is always individualized, and there are other formulas that help too, so it is helpful to consult a licensed acupuncturist or herbalist before starting this formula, says Mindich.
Mushrooms Mushrooms boost the immune system, Mindich says, and thus can help prevent recurrent herpes outbreaks. She recommends mushroom products from the Immune & Protection collection of Host Defense and from Myko San. Eating shiitake mushrooms daily has also been found to have a positive effect on the immune system in a study published in April 2015 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
Lemon balm This herb, which is related to mint, has traditionally been used to improve brain function and also has antiviral properties. Records concerning the medicinal use of lemon balm date back more than 2,000 years.
Lemon balm can be prepared and drunk as a tea. It can also be applied to the skin to both prevent herpes to prevent outbreaks and reduce symptoms. Research has shown that lemon balm oil directly counteracts herpes viruses.
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How To Prevent Spreading Herpes To Your Partner
If you have genital herpes and your partner doesnt, you can spread the virus that causes it to your partner during sex. For this reason, dermatologists recommend the following:
Tell your partner you have genital herpes
Explain that there is a risk that you can give your partner the virus that causes genital herpes. Be sure your partner knows that the following can reduce this risk:
Skipping sex when you have sores. To avoid giving your partner genital herpes, its recommended that you skip all sexual contact while you have sores and for one or two days after the sores clear. If your partners skin or genitals touches a herpes sore, your partner can easily catch the virus.
Using a condom when youre free of sores. Even when you dont have sores, its possible to spread the virus to your partner. When the virus isnt active, it travels from your skin to nearby nerve cells.A trigger can wake up this virus at any time. Common triggers include stress, illness, and surgery. If the virus wakes up, it travels back to your skin .Sometimes, when the virus wakes up, you wont have any sores or symptoms. During these times, you wont even know that the virus is on your skin . Its during these times that you can spread it to your partner. Condoms help reduce this risk.
Even when taking an antiviral every day, a condom must be used every time you have sex.
Preparing To Tell Your Partner
What you say and how you say it is going to depend on your own personal style.
Your attitude will influence how this news is received. Psychologists have observed that people tend to behave the way you expect them to behave, and expecting rejection increases the chances of an unhappy outcome.
When I finally told my partner I had genital herpes, he was relieved, he thought it was something much worse… AH
A straightforward and positive conversation about herpes issues is the best approach and may be helped by forward planning.
How long should you know someone before you tell them? If it appears the two of you could end up in bed on the first date, thats probably a good time.
Ideally, though, its best to give it a few dates before telling. Allow the relationship to develop a little. Its going to be easier if the two of you enjoy a degree of comfort and trust in each others company. Its probably better to wait until you know and trust each other.
There are good and bad times to bring up the topic of herpes. Some of the less appropriate moments include the crowded bar or party scene, travel en route to a romantic weekend, or a talk when youve just finished having sex. Talking just prior to love-making is not a good idea either.
Bring up the issue when you are not already in the mood for sexual intimacy, when youre feeling good about yourself, and when you both have an opportunity to have a discussion.
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Do You Always Have To Use Protection Now That You Have Herpes
The quick answer is no! You can absolutely have unprotected sex even if you have herpes. Before we dive deep and go into explanation on this lets talk about how this is a huge myth and is one of the drivers for the stigma.
When we are diagnosed and told that we have herpes we automatically think that were going to be forced to use condoms for the rest of our lives, even when were married. Yuck! And this is not true. Yes, condoms are great! They do a great job at preventing pregnancy and they do an okay job at preventing the transmission of herpes. Condoms definitely have their pros and thank goodness we have them. But lets face it, there comes a time in a relationship when you dont want to have to use one. I get it.
Heres the deal with condoms. Like I mentioned before they are great at preventing pregnancy in fact theyre 98% effective when used correctly. And when it comes to preventing herpes transmission they are 30-50% effective when used correctly. So this is great news but it also explains why if you always used a condom why you still got herpes. Condoms dont cover all of the body parts. I mean youre pretty exposed still and herpes doesnt just show up in the areas that are covered by the condom. Herpes can be on a man’s scrotum, at the base where the condom doesnt cover or in any area around the genital region. Same thing for women, herpes is not just in the vaginal canal or around the opening. It can be any place in her genital region.
Is There A Cure Or Treatment For Herpes
Theres no cure for the herpes virus yet. A herpes vaccine does not currently exist, because the herpes virus has more complicated DNA than most infections, creating challenges for researchers.
However, medication can help with symptoms, like sores and outbreaks. Medication also reduces the risk of transmission to others. Most medications for herpes are taken orally, though they may also be applied as a cream or administered by injection.
Can Genital Herpes Cause Other Problems
For most women, genital herpes does not usually cause serious health problems.
Women with HIV can have severe herpes outbreaks that are long-lasting. Herpes also may play a role in the spread of HIV. Herpes sores can make it easier for HIV to get into your body. Also, herpes can make people who are HIV-positive more likely to spread the infection to someone else.
Why You Should Go To A Sexual Health Clinic
You can see a GP, but they’ll probably refer you to a sexual health clinic if they think you might have genital herpes.
Sexual health clinics treat problems with the genitals and urine system.
Many sexual health clinics offer a walk-in service, where you do not need an appointment.
They’ll often get test results quicker than GP practices and you do not have to pay a prescription fee for treatment.
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Do The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes Return
The symptoms of genital herpes may reappear from time to time. This is because once the herpes virus is acquired, it stays permanently in the body. Most of the time it remains inactive, but every so often it may reactivate and cause another outbreak.
Each individual is different some people never have a recurrence others may have recurrences several times a year. However, recurrent outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first herpes episode.
Certain events or situations can trigger recurrences, and you may be able to help your partner avoid or reduce the trigger factors, which may include stress at work or home, fatigue, ill health, loss of sleep, friction due to sexual intercourse, and menstruation in women.
If your partner has frequent or severe episodes of genital herpes, or if the recurrent outbreaks are causing a lot of anxiety for your partner, then he or she may benefit from suppressive therapy , which prevents or reduces recurrences.
What Is Neonatal Herpes
Neonatal herpes can be a very serious infection. Babies generally contract the virus from their birthing parent during childbirth even if the parent doesnt have active lesions. They may also get HSV-1 if an adult with an active cold sore kisses them. Breastfeeding babies can also get HSV-1 from the breast if there are lesions present. But babies cant get herpes from breast milk, so its safe to pump and feed.
Herpes simplex can be more dangerous for young babies because they dont have a fully developed immune system. But most babies with neonatal herpes can recover fully with treatment.
The dangers of neonatal herpes are much higher if the infection spreads to the babys organs. If youre pregnant and have herpes, speak with your healthcare provider about how to lower the risk of passing the infection to your baby.
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Putting Herpes In Perspective
Right now, theres no cure for herpes. This means that if you contract HSV-1 or HSV-2, the virus will remain in your body for the rest of your life, or until a cure is discovered.
Finding this out can be devastating news, especially from the perspective of your dating and romantic life. After all, you have an incurable, lifelong virus that spreads through either oral or sexual contacttwo things that, last we checked, are pretty important in every romantic relationship.
The reality is that herpes probably isnt as big of a problem for your relationship as you think it is. Every day, millions of people around the world are completely able to have normal, healthy relationships in spite of their HSV-1 or HSV-2 status.
One easy way to put the herpes virus in context is through statistics. According to the Centers for Disease Control , nearly 50 percent of people ages 14 to 49 in the U.S. have HSV-1, and roughly 12 percent of the same age group have HSV-2.
The point is, its a very common virus, and theres nothing bad, unclean or unsafe about you if youre infected.
Can I Be Treated To Prevent Genital Herpes Transmission To My Partner
Yes. A large study showed that if one partner has herpes and the other partner is uninfected, treating the infected partner with suppressive therapy can prevent transmission of symptomatic herpes in over 90% of cases. This is an option for couples who are interested in having unprotected sex or who are planning to become pregnant.
If you are entering into a new relationship and are aware that you have herpes simplex infection, you owe it to your partner to notify them before having sex.
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Symptoms Of Oral Herpes
Oral herpes is most often caused by HSV-1, but can also be caused by HSV-2. It usually affects the lips and, in some primary attacks, the mucous membranes in the mouth. A herpes infection may occur on the cheeks or in the nose, but facial herpes is very uncommon.
Primary Oral Herpes Infection
If the primary oral infection causes symptoms, they can be very painful, particularly in children. Symptoms include:
- Tingling, burning, or itching around the mouth are the first signs.
- Red, fluid-filled blisters that may form on the lips, gums, mouth, and throat.
- Blisters that break open and leak. As they heal, they turn yellow and crusty, eventually turning into pink skin. The sores last 10 to 14 days and can be very uncomfortable.
- Blisters that may be preceded or accompanied by sore throat, fever, swollen glands, and painful swallowing.
Recurrent Oral Herpes Infection
A recurrent oral herpes infection is much milder than the primary outbreak. It usually manifests as a single sore, commonly called a cold sore or fever blister . The sore usually shows up on the outer edge of the lips and rarely affects the gums or throat.
Should You Tell A Partner You Have Herpes
Definitely. Disclose your HSV status to anyone youre getting involved with. I encourage everyone to share their diagnosis with their partners so that everyone can make the healthiest decisions for themselves, Melody A. Baldwin, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, tells Health.
Thats the moral part of the equation. Then theres the legal part, says Terri Warren, an adult nurse practitioner and spokesperson for the American Sexual Health Association. There are so many lawsuits of people suing someone else for giving them herpes, says Warren, also the founder of Westover Research Group in Portland, Oregon. You don’t want that to be you.
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Dont Be Afraid To Get Emotionally Intimate
An open and honest conversation about your diagnosis can require emotional intimacy that may be scary to have in a new relationship. Harbushka says to relax and realize that it can be sexy to communicate with your partner about sex and other important intimate topics.
With the right information and adequate protection, you can still enjoy a healthy sexual relationship. Here are some tips to help you and your partner stay safe during sex.
How Does Herpes Spread
It also helps to know a little about how HSV works when you talk to a partner about the infection. Getting the details from your doctor first may be helpful, says Dr. Baldwin, because theres no doubt that HSV can be confusing. For starters, there are two types of the virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2.
HSV-1 typically causes oral herpes, known for those trademark cold sores, while HSV-2 is usually to blame for genital herpes sores. However, over the past few decades there has been an increase in HSV-1which usually causes oral symptomscausing genital herpes, explains Dr. Baldwin. Genital herpes that come from HSV-1 are typically passed through oral sexa good reason to divulge that you have oral herpes, if you do.
Both types of herpes can be passed on when there are active sores and, less frequently, even when there are no symptoms. Some important information to share would be whether or not you have frequent outbreaks, which is the highest risk time for transmission, says Dr. Baldwin. Lay off the sexual activity during an outbreak, as well as whenever you have the pain or tingling that signal an outbreak is coming, she says.
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Talking To Your Partner
Talking to your partner about your herpes condition helps to develop trust, improves the relationship, and makes regular use of condoms more likely.
When you talk to your partner, youâll find out if theyâre one of the people who understand the risk of getting herpes and are OK with it or if theyâre in the group of people who want the most protection possible.
You should ask your partner to get tested for herpes. Most people have never been tested for herpes because this isnât a routinely ordered test even if a âfull STD panelâ is requested.
A type-specific herpes test is necessary. If your partner is positive for the same virus type, you wonât need to use protection.
Is It Safe To Take Drug Treatment For Genital Herpes During Pregnancy
As with any drug therapies, oral antiviral tablets are not routinely recommended for use during pregnancy. Aciclovir has been used for treating genital herpes for over 15 years and as with any drug, a register has been kept to report any adverse side effects for women who have taken it during pregnancy. To date, there have been no adverse side effects reported for either the baby or the mother.
Due to the potential seriousness of a primary episode of genital herpes for the baby and the relative safety of Aciclovir, it is now recommended that Aciclovir is used for treating the first episode of genital herpes or severe recurrent herpes in the last trimester of pregnancy. It is believed that the benefit of using Aciclovir, by reducing the risk of transmission of herpes to the baby, outweighs the risk of not using it.
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