How Does Herpes Simplex Spread
Herpes spreads through close contact with a person who has the infection. The virus can be found in skin and saliva. If you have herpes simplex, you are most likely to pass the virus to another person when you have sores. But you can infect someone else even if you have no symptoms. Healthcare providers call this asymptomatic viral shedding.
People may get HSV-1 through
- Touching a persons skin near the mouth.
- Sharing food utensils, lip balm or razors.
- If you receive oral sex from someone who has a cold sore, it may spread a herpes infection to your genitals.
People may get HSV-2 through
- Oral sex with someone whos infected.
- Skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation.
- Touching open sores, including while breastfeeding.
- Childbirth by a mother or gestational parent who has an active infection.
You cant get genital herpes from objects like toilet seats. But you could pass genital herpes through shared sex toys.
Myth #: Your Sex Life Is Over
While theres no cure, herpes treatment is simple and can shorten or prevent outbreaks, so you can still have a love life.
People have a disproportionate fear of herpes in relation to any other STI, Grimes says. They feel like their sex lives are ruined forever and thats in no way the case.
If you have the virus, your doctor may prescribe a medication like Zovirax or Valtrex to keep on hand in case of a flare-up. And if you experience outbreaks often, your provider may recommend daily dosing. However you treat it, its worth remembering that herpes is a condition to manage it doesnt define you.
If you have to be perfect for your new partner, that partner will be looking a very, very long time to find a match! Grimes says. Everyone has something, and since one in six Americans between 14-49 have HSV-2, odds are very high that your next partner is in the same boat. The main issue is to have productive conversations around these issues.
So theres no reason for all the stigma and secrecy surrounding herpes, since its safe to assume more people have it than you think. And if youre diagnosed with the virus, your provider will help you find a treatment plan thats easy, effective, and fit for your lifestyle.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms
While some people realize that they have genital herpes, many do not. It is estimated that one in eight persons in the United States has genital herpes, but as many as 90 percent are unaware that they have the virus. This is because many people have very mild symptoms that go unrecognized or are mistaken for another condition or no symptoms at all.
Because signs can vary a great deal, we recommend that an individual see a healthcare provider to be tested if they have a lesion of any kind. This can be swabbed for a culture test or for other sensitive tests.
A person may show symptoms within days after contracting genital herpes, or it may take weeks, months, or years. For this reason, it can be difficult for people to know when and from whom they may have contracted the virus.
The classic symptoms that most people associate with genital herpes are sores, vesicles, or ulcers all of which can also be called lesions. These classic lesions of genital herpes often resemble small pimples or blisters that eventually crust over and finally scab like a small cut. These lesions may take anywhere from two to four weeks to heal fully. During this time, some people will experience a second crop of lesions, and some will experience flu-like symptoms, including fever and swollen glands, particularly in the lymph nodes near the groin. Headache and painful urination also sometimes accompany full-blown symptoms of first episodes.
Don’t Miss: Can You Get Herpes From Kissing
How Is Herpes Simplex Diagnosed
Healthcare providers may diagnose herpes simplex based on how the sores look. Your provider may take a sample from the sore. Laboratory analysis of the sample can confirm or rule out the herpes virus.
If you dont have sores, your healthcare provider can use a blood test to check for HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibody, a marker showing youve been exposed to the virus. The blood test doesnt show an active infection . But it informs your provider whether youve been exposed to the herpes virus in the past. If this is your first infection, you may not test positive for herpes if there hasnt been enough time for your body to develop antibodies. The HSV-1and HSV-2 antibody test may be repeated in eight to 12 weeks.
How Herpes Is Transmitted
Herpes is most efficiently passed via direct genital contact with a herpes lesion, but it can also be passed through skin-to-skin contact with someone who has an active infection but no symptoms.
The latter manner of transmission, referred to as asymptomatic genital shedding, occurs when the virus reactivates and literally sheds viruses out of the part of the body where the initial infection occurred.
In people with asymptomatic HSV-2, shedding can occur in episodes throughout the year, silently passing the infection without the person even realizing it.
Herpes also can be passed to a child during childbirth or shortly after birth if the baby comes into contact with lesions present on the birthing parent. This is otherwise referred to as maternal transmission or perinatal transmission. Less commonly, the virus can be transmitted while the fetus is still in the uterus.
Don’t Miss: What Is Genital Herpes Pictures
So Cold Sores Are Only Caused By Hsv
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause cold sores on the mouth and face.
Although its more common for HSV-1 to cause cold sores, it isnt impossible for HSV-2 to cause them, too.
- are caused by the herpes simplex virus
- usually develop near the outside of the mouth, such as below your nostrils or on your lips
- cause redness and fluid-filled blisters
- usually appear in groups
- eventually break and ooze, forming a crust-like scab
- may take 2 to 4 weeks to completely heal
- may be caused by food or chemical sensitivities, dietary deficiencies, minor injury, or stress
- may develop anywhere inside your mouth, such as at the base of your gum line, inside your lip, or under your tongue
- are shaped like a circle or oval
- are typically yellow or white with a red border
- may appear solo or in groups
- usually take 1 to 2 weeks to completely heal
HSV-1 is spread through direct contact with the virus, which can be present in or around cold sores, in oral secretions , and in genital secretions .
Some of the ways it can be transmitted include:
- kissing someone on the mouth
- sharing eating utensils or cups
- sharing lip balm
- performing oral sex
The herpes virus usually affects the area where it first made contact with the body.
Some of the ways HSV-2 can be transmitted include:
No Cure Better Treatment And Prevention Needed
There is no cure for herpes. At present, antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir, can help to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms but cannot cure the infection.
As well as increasing awareness about HSV infection and its symptoms, improved access to antiviral medications and heightened HIV prevention efforts for those with genital HSV symptoms are needed globally.
In addition, development of better treatment and prevention interventions is needed, particularly HSV vaccines. WHO and partners are working to accelerate research to develop new strategies for prevention and control of HSV infections. Such research includesthe development of HSV vaccines and topical microbicides. Several candidate vaccines and microbicides are currently being studied.
A vaccine against HSV infection would not only help to promote and protect the health and well-being of millions of people, particularly women, worldwide it could also potentially have an impact on slowing the spread of HIV, if developedand provided alongside other HIV prevention strategies says Dr Meg Doherty, Director of the WHO Department of Global HIV, Hepatitis, and STI Programmes.
Read Also: Does Weed Help With Herpes
How Common Is Herpes Herpes Statistics
In all of the United States adult population, over 50 percent is infected with oral herpes . Most individuals contract oral herpes at the time they were still kids by accepting a kiss from an infected relative or friend.
A study carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that about 16 percent individuals within the age range of 14 and 49 have genital HSV-2 infection in the United States however, over 90 percent are not even aware that they are infected by this disease. People are not aware of the contraction of herpes for so many reasons .
Any individual who is fully sexually active can be infected with genital herpes. According to a recent result of the nationally representative study, genital herpes infection is usual in the United States. Across the nation, 45 million individuals whose ages are 12 and older than 12, or even one out of five of the entire adolescent as well as the adult population, have contracted HSV-2.
From the late 1970s till date, the number of genital herpes infection among Americans has expanded to 30 percent. The prevalence of this infection is expanding most dramatically among white teens that are still young the prevalence of HSV-2 among whites within the age range of 12 and 19 years old is presently five times higher than it used to be about 20 years ago. Furthermore, young adults within the age range of 20 and 20 are presently twice as prone to have HSV-2.
Causes Of Genital Herpes And Risk Factors
Genital herpes is an enormous public health concern because a person doesn’t have to have symptoms to infect others. Because many people with HSV-2 are unaware of their infection, they can continue to spread the virus without even knowing.
An estimated 87.4% of people between the age of 14 and 49 who are infected have never been diagnosed with HSV-2 and may not even realize they have the virus.
- Having other STIs, including HIV
You May Like: How Long Does It Take To Know You Have Herpes
How To Prevent Transmission After Infection
If you or your partner have genital herpes, you put one another at risk of infection. There are things you can do to lessen the risks of sharing HSV-2:
Dont engage in sexual activity when youre/they’re having any symptoms of an outbreak.
Recognize the signs that an outbreak is looming and cease sexual activity until the outbreak has passed and all genital lesions have healed.
Use a latex or polyurethane condom when having sex outside of outbreak periods while this isnt foolproof, it can lessen your risk.
Talk with your doctor about using suppressive antiviral medications to lower your risk of transmitting genital herpes to an uninfected sexual partner.
During an outbreak, avoid touching your sores and wash your hands frequently.
Herpes Facts And Statistics: What You Should Know
Genital herpes caused by herpes simplex virus type 2 is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections worldwide. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , over half a million new HSV-2 infections occurred in the United States in 2018.
But, the actual number of cases may far exceed this estimate. This is because more and more genital herpes infections are being caused by a related virus known as herpes simplex virus type 1 , the type associated with cold sores.
What makes the scale of the epidemic all the more concerning is that most people with genital herpes do not know that they have it.
This article takes an in-depth look at the causes and scale of the genital herpes epidemic in the United States, including the risk factors and the groups disproportionately affected by infections. Learn facts about herpes.
sopradit / Getty Images
Recommended Reading: Can Genital Herpes Be Treated Without Medication
How Is Herpes Simplex Treated
Some people have few to no herpes outbreaks and choose not to have treatment. But many people prefer to use medications that shorten outbreaks and reduce symptoms.
During an outbreak, you may use an antiviral ointment or cream to help lessen your symptoms and help them go away faster, but it only works if you start it soon after you start an outbreak. Many people with HSV-2 take daily oral medications to keep outbreaks at bay.
Your provider may prescribe a topical medication or oral medication such as:
How Will You Know If You Have Hsv
In most cases, you wont know unless you develop blisters or sores on the mouth or genitals. These sores usually have a burning, tingling sensation.
If you think youve been exposed to HSV-2 or would like to know if you carry the virus, talk to a doctor or other healthcare provider about testing.
Yes, you can still have sex if you have HSV-1 or HSV-2.
However, you should avoid intimate contact if youre experiencing an active outbreak. This will reduce the risk for transmission to your partner.
For example, if you have a cold sore you should avoid kissing your partner or performing oral sex.
If you have an active genital outbreak, you should avoid any below-the-belt activity until it clears.
Although the virus is less likely to spread when no symptoms are present, practicing sex with a condom or another barrier method, such as a dental dam, can help reduce the overall risk for transmission.
You may also consider talking to your healthcare provider about prescription antiviral medication, such as:
These medications can help suppress the virus and reduce the risk of transmission.
In rare cases, herpes can be transmitted during pregnancy or childbirth. Reassurances about genital herpes during pregnancy and birth. . herpes.org.nz/patient-info/herpes-pregnancy/
If youre pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, talk to an obstetrician or other healthcare provider about the steps you can take to reduce the risk for transmission.
Don’t Miss: Dr Sebis Cure For Herpes
Myth: Herpes Can Be Transmitted Through The Blood
Herpes cannot be transmitted through the blood, but it can be detected through a blood test. In fact, people with a history of herpes simplex virus type 1 or 2 can safely donate blood as long as:
- -All lesions and infected cold sores are dry and healed
- -They wait at least 48 hours after finishing a round of antiviral treatments
Large Number Of Genital Infections
In January, WHO estimated that 417 million people aged 15-49 years have HSV-2 infection, which causes genital herpes. Taken together, the estimates reveal that over half a billion people between the ages of 15-49 years have genital infection caused by either HSV-1 or HSV-2.
The new estimates highlight the crucial need for countries to improve data collection for both HSV types and sexually transmitted infections in general, says Dr Temmerman.
Given the lack of a permanent and curative treatment for both HSV-1 and HSV-2, WHO and partners are working to accelerate development of HSV vaccines and topical microbicides, which will have a crucial role in preventing these infections in the future. Several candidate vaccines and microbicides are currently being studied.
Read Also: Does Acyclovir Cream Work For Genital Herpes
What Can I Do If I Have Herpes Simplex 2
Many people who find out they have herpes feel depressed knowing they’ll always have the virus and can give it to others. But you arent alone. Herpes is one of the most common STIs, both in the U.S. and worldwide. If you have herpes, you should:
- Learn all you can about it. Information will help you to manage your disease and feel better about yourself.
- Talk about your illness with your doctor.
If you have herpes, you can still:
- Have sex if you use a condom or dental dam , and you tell your partner about your illness. Some couples, who have sexual relations only with each other, may choose not to use condoms even though one partner has herpes. Because each situation is different, you should ask your doctor if this is the right choice for you in your relationship.
- Have children. People with herpes can still give birth to healthy babies. If you have herpes and plan to have children, discuss your illness with your healthcare provider.
If you have herpes, you should also get checked for HIV and other STIs .
Other Types Of Herpes
Other types of herpes can infect humans in different ways. The varicella-zoster herpes virus, for example, causes chickenpox and the shingles. Vaccines are available to prevent this form of the virus altogether.
Epstein-Barr virus , also known as human herpesvirus 4, can cause infectious mononucleosis and other illnesses.
You May Like: Should You Get Tested For Herpes
Genital Herpes By Age And Gender
In the United States, most new HSV-2 infections occur in people under 50 who tend to be more sexually active. Because genital herpes does not go away, the prevalence will increase with age.
Data from the National Center of Health Statistics demonstrates how the HSV-2 prevalence in the United States increases with age:
- Age 14 to 19: 0.8% prevalence
- Ages 20 to 29: 7.6% prevalence
- Age 30 to 39: 13.3% prevalence
- Ages 40 to 49: 21.2% prevalence
In short, the older you get, the more likely the odds of having herpes if you are sexually active and have risk factors for the disease.
Myth #: Herpes Is Not Harmful
Fact: Most of the time, herpes is mild. However, it can cause serious complications in some cases.
Also, if an infant has exposure to herpes during delivery, they are at risk of neonatal herpes. This can cause brain damage or death. Research suggests that neonatal herpes affects
Both types of herpes are most contagious when a person has symptoms. However, herpes can still spread when no symptoms are present.
Genital herpes spreads through sexual contact. The likelihood of a person spreading it will depend on:
- how often they have sex with another person
- if and how often they use barrier method contraception
- how long they have had herpes
Using barrier method contraception reduces the risk of spreading herpes to a sexual partner, but it cannot prevent it completely. Dental dams can reduce the risk of spread during oral sex, as herpes can pass between a persons mouth and their partners genitals.
Research shows that older herpes infections are less contagious than newer ones. In other words, if a person has had the virus for many years, they may be less likely to spread it than someone who has recently contracted it.
People can also get oral herpes through nonsexual contact with a person who has the virus. This contact may include kissing or sharing utensils or drinks.
Also Check: How To Know If I Got Herpes