There Are 2 Herpes Simplex Viruses That Can Cause Infection
- One causes most genital herpes.
- The other virus can also cause genital herpes but more often causes blisters of the mouth and lips.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 1 out of 6 people ages 14 to 49have genital herpes.
Women are more easily infected with herpes than men.
Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Many people who have genital herpes may not be aware they have the infection, because they may not have any symptoms.
The first episode of herpes can cause considerable pain and distress. Symptoms of the first episode may include:
- flu-like symptoms such as feeling unwell, headaches and pains in the back and legs, with or without enlarged glands in the groin
- small blisters around the genitals these break open to form shallow, painful ulcers, which scab over and heal after one to two weeks
- small cracks in the skin with or without an itch or tingling
- redness or a distinct rash
- some people also have considerable pain and swelling in the genital area, and hence may have additional pain and difficulty passing urine.
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I Hope That This Study Changes The Dialogue Around Herpes Research And Opens Up The Idea That We Can Start Thinking About Cure Rather Than Just Control Of The Virus
Ã¢ Dr. Keith Jerome, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Whereas most research on herpes has focused on suppressing the recurrence of painful symptoms, the Fred Hutch gene therapy work addresses the root cause of reactivation: the presence of latent virus in infected nerve cells.
Ã¢I hope that this study changes the dialogue around herpes research and opens up the idea that we can start thinking about cure, rather than just control of the virus,Ã¢ Jerome said.
It will still take a long time before these experiments lead to the first human trials of gene therapy to cure herpes. Jerome estimates that will be at least three years away.
Herpes simplex viruses afflict billions of human beings around the globe. According to the World Health Organization, two-thirds of the world population under the age of 50 carry herpes simplex virus type 1, or HSV-1, which primarily causes cold sores, while 491 million people aged 15-49 are infected with closely related HSV-2, which is the cause of sexually transmitted genital herpes.
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Who Might Get Genital Herpes
Genital herpes affects teens and adults of all genders and races. It can spread if you have multiple sexual partners and dont use condoms.
Women are more at risk. Delicate vaginal tissue can tear, making it easier for the infection to get in. Black women are especially vulnerable. An estimated 1 in 2 African-American women between the ages of 14 and 49 is infected with HSV-2, the virus that causes genital herpes.
How Can I Protect Myself From Herpes
To prevent getting genital herpes:
- Do not have sex with someone who has an open sore on their sex organs.
- Always use a condom during sex.
- Limit your number of sex partners.
Taking antiviral medications can reduce the risk of a person with genital herpes from spreading the disease, but that doesnt eliminate the risk. Be sure to practice the measures listed above to decrease risk.
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I Had Lesions When I Was Evaluated But My Culture Was Negative Does This Mean That I Dont Have Herpes
Not necessarily. Although lesions can be caused by something other than herpes, false negative herpes tests can occur if the samples are not taken appropriately, if there is a long transport time between the clinic and the laboratory, or if cultures were taken late in the course of the lesions. Lesions that occur early in the course of a herpes outbreak are much more likely to have positive cultures than cultures taken after the lesions crust over.
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How Herpes Is Treated
There is no cure for herpes.
- The health care provider may prescribe antiviral medicine to help speed up the healing process. It also shortens the time when the virus can spread from the herpes sores.
- Pain may be treated with medicine such as Tylenol or Motrin or by applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the affected area.
- If sores are in the mouth, avoid foods high in acid, like citrus fruits and juices.
- The infected area should be kept clean and dry.
- Wash hands often and avoid touching the sores to prevent spreading the virus.
- It is important to stay healthy by getting enough rest, having proper nutrition and exercise and managing stress well.
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Is There A Cure Or Treatment For Herpes
Theres no cure for the herpes virus yet. A herpes vaccine doesnt currently exist, as 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 lowers the risk of transmission to others. You can take most medications for herpes orally, though you may also apply some as a cream or receive them by injection.
Is Herpes Simplex Related To Herpes Zoster
Herpes simplex and the varicella-zoster virus are related, but they arent the same. VZV causes chickenpox and shingles.
Like HSV-1 and HSV-2, shingles can cause a painful, blistering rash. The shingles rash usually shows up on the back, side, abdomen , neck and face. It is often only on half of your body, following the pattern of your nerves. See your healthcare provider if you have a new rash and suspect you may have shingles.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Herpes simplex is a virus. Once you have herpes, its a lifelong condition. A herpes infection can lead to outbreaks , but youll also have times when you have no symptoms. The main sign of herpes is sores that appear on the infected skin. Some people choose not to treat herpes, especially if symptoms are mild. Others take antiviral medications to reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2022.
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Why Genital Herpes Comes Back
Genital herpes is caused by a virus called herpes simplex. Once you have the virus, it stays in your body.
It will not spread in your body to cause blisters elsewhere. It stays in a nearby nerve and causes blisters in the same area.
If you can, avoid things that trigger your symptoms.
Triggers can include:
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Genital Herpes Treatment In Pregnancy
You may be offered antiviral treatment:
- to treat outbreaks in pregnancy
- from 36 weeks to reduce the chance of an outbreak during birth
- from diagnosis until the birth if you first get herpes after 28 weeks of pregnancy
Many women with genital herpes have a vaginal delivery. You may be offered a caesarean, depending on your circumstances.
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Is There A Link Between Genital Herpes And Hiv
It is easier for a person with genital herpes to get or transmit HIV infection.
If a person with a herpes infection is genitally exposed to HIV, their risk of acquiring HIV is than someone without genital herpes. This is because genital herpes can cause breaks in the skin and make a person more vulnerable to HIV infection.
A person with HIV and genital herpes is more likely to transmit HIV to sex partners.
What Are The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Some people never develop symptoms. They dont know they have the herpes virus that causes genital herpes. They may unknowingly infect others. You can have the herpes virus for years and not have symptoms, so its hard to know when or from whom you got it.
When symptoms occur, theyre usually worse during the first outbreak or flare-up . Symptoms typically appear within two to 20 days after infection. Active symptoms may last up to four weeks.
You may experience:
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How Common Is Genital Herpes
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 40 million to 50 million adults in the United States have genital herpes. HSV II infection is more common in women and in people who have had more than five sexual partners. Most people with HSV II do not know they have it, because it does not always cause symptoms.
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When To Call The Doctor
Even though HSV sores can hurt and be unsightly, most cases of herpes do not cause serious illness. The sores go away in a few days. Contact the health provider if:
- Sores are present and you think it might be a first herpes infection. The diagnosis is usually made by examining the sores. If the sores have not healed, sometimes a laboratory test is done.
- Sores do not heal by themselves or show signs of infection such as pus, spreading redness or fever.
- Sores are near the eyes.
- You have another health condition with a weakened immune system.
Todays Reality: Herpes In The Us
Terri Wilder: Thanks for being here with me today, Dr. Jerome. My first question is: Why is herpes simplex virus a public health problem?
Keith Jerome: Well, herpes is unique. Its part of a relatively small family of viruses that cause infection for life.Once the virus gets into a person, it finds a particular place it likes to essentially fall asleepwe call it latency. But for herpes simplex, it goes to neurons within the body called nerve cells. The virus could basically go there to sleep, where the body doesnt notice it and the normal medications that we have today dont notice it. But every once in a while, the virus can wake up and then travel back out from those nerve cells. Thats what causes the ulcerations or lesions that people get.
And so, were very interested in answering: Is there something that we can provide to help people not just control the infection, but actually get rid of it?
Wilder: Can you speak to the link between herpes and HIV?
Jerome: Absolutely. Having herpes simplex virus raises a persons risk of acquiring HIV about twofold. Obviously, there are other risk factors for HIV, but on a population-wide basis, particularly in areas where the incidence of HIV infection is very high, along with a high level of herpes simplex virusfor example, in parts of sub-Saharan Africawe think that almost half of all the HIV cases that exist can actually be traced back to a pre-existing herpes simplex virus infection.
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Is There A Cure Or Treatment For Genital Herpes
There is no cure for genital herpes. However, daily use of antiviral medicines can prevent or shorten outbreaks. Antiviral medicines also can reduce the chance of spreading it to others.
Though several clinical trials have tested vaccines against genital herpes, there is no vaccine currently available to prevent infection. One vaccine trial showed efficacy among women whose partners had HSV-2, but only among women not infected with HSV-1. Efficacy was not observed among men whose partners had HSV-2. Another trial testing the same vaccine showed some protection from genital HSV-1 infection, but none from HSV-2.
How Long Do Sores From Herpes Simplex Last
If youre infected with HSV-1, commonly known as oral herpes, you may notice tingling or burning around your mouth in the days before a cold sore appears. These blisters break open and ooze fluid before forming a crust. Usually, sores last for seven to 10 days.
If youre infected with HSV-2, commonly known as genital herpes, your first outbreak may last between two to four weeks. Recurrent outbreaks usually last between three to seven days.
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What Causes Herpes Simplex
Herpes simplex virus enters the body through the skin. After the initial infection and symptom onset, the virus will have periods of inactivity.
However, the virus doesn’t go away. It stays dormant in the body’s nerve cells. During this time, you likely won’t experience symptoms. Periodically, it can be reactivated and cause additional outbreaks.
Who Might Get Herpes Simplex
People of any age can contract herpes simplex. You are more likely to get the virus if you:
- Were assigned female at birth.
- Have had multiple sex partners.
- Started having sex at a young age.
- Have a history of any sexually transmitted infection .
- Have a weakened immune system.
- Dont use condoms for intercourse and dental dams for oral sex.
Who gets HSV-1, commonly known as oral herpes?
Anyone can get HSV-1. Most people contract HSV-1 during childhood. It spreads when an adult who has the virus has close contact with a child, such as when a family member kisses a child.
Who gets HSV-2, commonly known as genital herpes?
Genital herpes affects sexually active teens and adults of all genders and races. It can spread if you have multiple sexual partners and dont use condoms or dental dams.
People assigned female at birth are more at risk. Delicate vaginal tissue can tear, making it easier for the infection to get in. Black people who were AFAB are especially vulnerable, with an estimated 1 in 2 people AFAB between the ages of 14 and 49 infected with HSV-2.
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Why Is Creating An Hsv Vaccine So Difficult
Herpesviruses can live in your body undetected, meaning your immune system does not react to them right away. The longer the virus goes undetected, the more difficult it is to make an effective vaccine.
When scientists make vaccines, they target the part of your immune system that recognizes an invader like a virus or bacteria has entered your body. The vaccine then teaches your body how to kill the invader before it makes you sick. If the immune system does not react to HSV right away, a vaccine cannot teach your body how to protect you.
HSV vaccine studies in animals have had good results. But when these vaccines were studied in humans, they did not work as well. Thats when pharmaceutical companies have to restart their research attempts.
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Herpes Causes And Risk Factors
Causes of herpes include acquiring the virus through sexual contact, coupled with immune system suppression and sometimes nutritional deficiencies.
HSV-1 is primarily transmitted by oral-oral contact. On the other hand, HSV-2 is considered a sexually transmitted disease and usually passed during oral or vaginal sex.
A scary finding is that more cases of genital herpes than ever before are now being caused by HSV-1 , and about 85 percent of people with genital herpes dont even know it. Studies show that about 50 percent of the new genital herpes infections in young adults are due to HSV-1 and about 40 percent in older adults. The fact that most people dont ever find out theyre infected is one of the reasons that transmission rates are steadily climbing.
Risk factors for acquiring herpes include:
- Kissing someone who has symptoms of an active herpes virus
- Engaging in any form of unprotected sex
- Having sex with multiple partners
- Spreading the virus through contact with cold sores on the eyes, secretions on the fingers, or ulcers/sores on buttocks and upper thighs
- Having certain other illnesses that lower immune function, such as HIV/AIDS, an autoimmune disorder or hepatitis
- Eating a poor diet that causes nutrient deficiencies and lowered immunity
- Smoking cigarettes, drinking high amounts of alcohol or abusing drugs
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How Do Dermatologists Treat Herpes Simplex
There is no cure for herpes simplex. The good news is that sores often clear without treatment. Many people choose to treat herpes simplex because treatment can relieve symptoms and shorten an outbreak.
Most people are treated with an antiviral medicine. An antiviral cream or ointment can relieve the burning, itching, or tingling. An antiviral medicine that is oral or intravenous can shorten an outbreak of herpes.
Prescription antiviral medicines approved for the treatment of both types of herpes simplex include:
Taken daily, these medicines can lessen the severity and frequency of outbreaks. They also can help prevent infected people from spreading the virus.
Who Gets Herpes Simplex
Most people get HSV-1 as an infant or child. This virus can be spread by skin-to-skin contact with an adult who carries the virus. An adult does not have to have sores to spread the virus.
A person usually gets HSV-2 through sexual contact. About 20% of sexually active adults in the United States carry HSV-2. Some people are more likely to get HSV-2. These people:
Have had many sex partners
Had sex for the first time at a young age
Have another sexually transmitted infection
Have a weakened immune system due to a disease or medicine
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