How To Protect Yourself From Herpes
Aside from not having sex, there is no 100% effective way to prevent herpes. You can reduce the risk of contracting the infection by using a condom, but even a condom is not foolproof, as the virus can be transmitted even if your partner has no visible sores.
That said, if you or your partner has herpes, taking antiviral medications can significantly reduce the chances of transmission.
If you exhibit any of the symptoms of genital herpes, such as cracked, red sores around your genitals or rectum, ask your doctor for a blood test to detect HSV antibodies. Even if you test negative, regular STI screening is important for anyone who is sexually active, and free and low-cost testing resources can be found on the CDC’s website.
Why Isnt There A Cure For Herpes Already
No company has managed to successfully develop a commercially ready herpes vaccine, however, several HSV vaccines have undergone phase I and II trials. Until recently, at least three pharmaceutical companies were overseeing clinical trials for herpes vaccine candidates. All three companies recently abandoned their research after failing to meet their primary endpoints.
How does herpes continue to hoodwink experienced researchers and scientists, when other devastating diseases like the measles, mumps, hepatitis B, and whooping cough have been nearly eliminated?
It all comes down to the unique behavior of the herpes simplex virus.
Herpes is a complex virus that knows exactly how to evade the immune systems grasp. It lies dormant in nerve cells for months or years at a time, then emerges without any warning to reactivate the infection. In this way, herpes behaves like a cancer that lurks in the body undetected until the damage is already done.
To make matters worse, as long as just a minuscule amount of infection remains after an outbreak fades, herpes can easily survive and reappear in future outbreaks.
Pharmaceutical companies are eager to uncover a cure for herpes, but they must first overcome an extremely long and expensive research process.
Moderna Starts Clinical Trials For Hiv Vaccine
Moderna is developing a vaccine using mRNA technology to treat the herpes simplex virus . There are two HSV virus types HSV-1, the one I have, that affects the mouth, face and genitals, and HSV-2, which predominantly affects the genitals. However, both viruses can spread to other parts of the body. In the United States, of people aged 14 to 49, 47.8 percent have HSV-1 and 11.9 percent have HSV-2, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many people living with herpes dont know they have it, which means these figures may be far greater. HSV remains latent in the body, staying alive through the lifelong infection of a given person. When reactivated, HSV results in visible outbreaks. The vaccine will protect against HSV-2 and provide cross-protection for HSV-1 as a suppressive antiviral treatment.
The CDC recommends against widespread testing for herpes as, alongside the risk of false positives, the risk of shaming and stigmatizing people outweighs the potential benefits.
Deidre Olsen is an award-nominated writer based in Berlin. She is writing a memoir about self-destruction, healing and resilience.
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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.
How Do You Manage Herpes Long
Management with treatment:
- You may need to consider suppression treatment if you experience many outbreaks in a year
- You can buy antiviral creams for cold sores from a pharmacy, but should see your doctor if the sore lasts more than 5-7 days
- For genital herpes treatment, your doctor may refer you to a sexual health clinic
- Treatment of an acute short-term infection is simple and involves taking a course of antiviral tablets. There are different types of antiviral tablets which can be used. Some courses are higher strength and only need to be taken for 1 to 2 days, and some are taken for 5 days. You may need longer treatment if new symptoms develop during treatment or of your treatment doesnt completely heal your symptoms. You should speak to your doctor if this happens
Managing oral herpes :
- avoid direct physical contact with people
- avoid sharing items that can pass the virus on such as cups, cutlery, make up or lip balm. You can still use communal facilities such as showers, toilets or swimming pools.
- dont participate in oral sex or kissing
- wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly after applying antiviral cream or after touching the sore avoid touching the sore unless you need to apply treatment
Managing genital herpes don’t have sex during an outbreak of genital herpes or during the initial signs of an outbreak . The following preventative steps will reduce the risk of passing it to partners:
Telling a partner about herpes:
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When To Talk With A Doctor
Herpes isnt curable, but it can be treated with antiviral medications. These medications can reduce the severity of an outbreak.
If you suspect you have herpes, make an appointment with a doctor. Its also a good idea to talk with your doctor about a herpes screening if:
- your current or previous sexual partner has herpes
- youre planning to have sex with a new partner
- you had a risky sexual encounter
If youve already been diagnosed with herpes and youre currently experiencing an outbreak, the outbreak might go away without causing complications and without treatment.
However, its wise to make an appointment with your doctor if:
- the outbreak is particularly painful or unbearable
- youre experiencing symptoms of other STIs
- youre experiencing frequent, severe outbreaks
If youre sexually active, its a good idea to have regular STI screenings. You can book appointments for STI screenings with your doctors office. You could also try a local clinic, certain pharmacies, or Planned Parenthood.
Treatment The First Time You Have Genital Herpes
You may be prescribed:
- antiviral medicine to stop the symptoms getting worse you need to start taking this within 5 days of the symptoms appearing
- cream for the pain
If you have had symptoms for more than 5 days before you go to a sexual health clinic, you can still get tested to find out the cause.
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How Is Genital Herpes Managed Or Treated
If you have mild symptoms or infrequent outbreaks, you might not need or want treatment. During an outbreak, these steps can ease symptoms:
- Apply an ice pack to your genitals. Wrap the ice pack in a washcloth or apply it over your underwear.
- Keep your genitals dry. Wear cotton or other nonsynthetic underpants and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Moist sores take longer to heal.
- Soak in a warm bath.
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing.
- Topical 1% or 2% lidocaine may be used as topical analgesic
Antiviral medications can prevent outbreaks. They can also lessen symptoms and help symptoms go away faster. You take this medicine as a pill or intravenous injection. When taken daily, antivirals can prevent an outbreak. They lower the chances of spreading the virus to other people.
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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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Treatment If The Blisters Come Back
Go to a GP or sexual health clinic if you have been diagnosed with genital herpes and need treatment for an outbreak.
Antiviral medicine may help shorten an outbreak by 1 or 2 days if you start taking it as soon as symptoms appear.
But outbreaks usually settle by themselves, so you may not need treatment.
Recurrent outbreaks are usually milder than the first episode of genital herpes.
Over time, outbreaks tend to happen less often and be less severe. Some people never have outbreaks.
Some people who have more than 6 outbreaks in a year may benefit from taking antiviral medicine for 6 to 12 months.
If you still have outbreaks of genital herpes during this time, you may be referred to a specialist.
Support Fred Hutch Research
The Jerome Labâs herpes research thus far involves only HSV-1, but the scientists are now working on ways to extend their success to HSV-2. The first step will be to repeat their experiments using HSV-2 in guinea pigs, which, unlike mice, experience natural reactivations of herpes virus infections, just as humans do.
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Final Thoughts On The Home Remedies For Herpes Sores
Herpes sores can be quite difficult to get rid of on the body. Luckily, there are some useful home remedies and healing processes which you can use as herpes treatment if you want to try a natural approach. From oregano oil to the simple warm water, you can choose between a lot of solutions. However, it is a good idea to prevent such problems from appearing. Taking care of your diet, sleep schedule, and hygiene can help you avoid herpes in the future. Similarly, dont have unprotected sex and try to keep an eye on the herpes symptoms before they evolve.
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Can Genital Herpes Be Treated
Your physician can prescribe different medications to help reduce your symptoms and speed up the healing of an outbreak. These medicines work best when you start them soon after an outbreak occurs.
To reduce pain during an outbreak:
- Sit in warm water in a portable bath or bathtub for about 20 minutes. Avoid bubble baths.
- Keep your genital area clean and dry, and avoid tight clothes.
- Take over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Avoid aspirin.
Let your physician know if you are worried about your genital herpes. He or she can recommend a support group to help you cope with the virus.
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When Treatments For Genital Herpes Are Given
- Initial treatment. If you have symptoms such as sores when youre first diagnosed with genital herpes, your doctor will usually give you a brief course of antiviral therapy to relieve them or prevent them from getting worse. Your doctor may keep you on the drugs longer if the sores dont heal in that time.
After the first treatment, work with your doctor to come up with the best way to take antiviral therapies. There are two options:
- Intermittent treatment. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral drug for you to keep on hand in case you have another flare-up this is called intermittent therapy. You can take the pills for two to five days as soon as you notice sores or when you feel an outbreak coming on. Sores will heal and disappear on their own, but taking the drugs can make the symptoms less severe and make them go away faster.
- Suppressive treatment. If you have outbreaks often, you may want to consider taking an antiviral drug every day. Doctors call this suppressive therapy. For someone who has more than six outbreaks a year, suppressive therapy can reduce the number of outbreaks by 70% to 80%. Many people who take the antiviral drugs daily have no outbreaks at all.
There is no set number of outbreaks per year that doctors use to decide when someone should start suppressive therapy. Rather, more important factors are how often the outbreaks happen and if they are severe enough to interfere with your life.
Next Steps For An Experimental Herpes Cure
Wilder: When do you anticipate moving to human trials?
Jerome: We want to do that as quickly as we possibly can, but first there are a few things we need to work out. We, first of all, want to generate similar data for herpes simplex virus 2 in a model system. Thats being lined up and happening now.
We are spending a lot of effort on ensuring safety and conducting studies looking at potential side effects. Getting to a human clinical trial is probably going to take at least the next three years, because the last thing we want to do is hurt someone.
Wilder: Reading your paper, I couldnt help wondering about other herpesviruses. Viruses like herpesviruses 4 and herpesvirus 6 can cause a great deal of complications for people. Could the meganucleases approach be effective for those other viruses?
Jerome: Sure, absolutely. Weve thought a lot about this.One point I want to make is that the research is very much focused on herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2 right now. Our paper studied herpes simplex virus 1 because of the experimental model we used.
Herpes simplex virus 2 behaves almost identically. We do have to tweak the meganucleases a bit, and weve done that so that they recognize herpes simplex virus 2. We are working actively on right now.
Some of the most exciting work were doing must move beyond the herpesviruses. Weve thought some about HIV, although that tends to be a very difficult target in terms of getting the scissors to the right cells.
Terri Wilder, M.S.W.
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Is Genital Herpes Related To Shingles
Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is caused by the varicella zoster virus , which causes chickenpox earlier in life. The natural history of varicella zoster infection is similar to genital herpes infection in that VZV also becomes latent in the sensory nerve roots. Later in life the virus may exit, causing shingles.
Recurrences in shingles cause blister lesions in a single area of skin called a dermatome. Shingles is not a sexually transmitted infection and is independent from genital herpes.
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:
- surgery on your genital area
- a weakened immune system for example, from having chemotherapy for cancer
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Is It Safe To Breastfeed If I Have Genital Herpes
Yes as long as there isnt an open lesion on your chest or breast. If you have an active outbreak while breastfeeding, its possible to spread the infection to your nipples through touch. Careful hand-washing can prevent this spread. You shouldnt nurse from a breast that has herpes sores. You can pump breast milk until the sores heal. Dont give your baby expressed breast milk if the pump comes into contact with an open sore.
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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Antiviral Creams And Tablets
Antiviral creams such as aciclovir or penciclovir may speed up the healing time of a recurrent cold sore infection if used correctly.
Cold sore creams are widely available over the counter from pharmacies without a prescription.
Theyre only effective if you apply them as soon as the first signs of a cold sore appear, when the herpes simplex virus is spreading and replicating. Using an antiviral cream after this initial period is unlikely to have much effect.
If you have frequently recurring bouts of cold sores, use antiviral medication as soon as you feel the tingling sensation that indicates a cold sore is about to develop. Youll need to apply the cream up to five times a day for four to five days.
Antiviral creams can only help to heal a current outbreak of cold sores. They dont get rid of the herpes simplex virus or prevent future outbreaks of cold sores occurring.
Antiviral tablets are generally more effective than creams at treating cold sores, but are usually only prescribed for more severe cases.
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
The team attained its first promising results years ago using a single type of meganuclease that proved effective in cutting the herpes virus DNA, but the results were short-lived. The virus could rely on the infected cellsâ own DNA-repair programs â which donât distinguish between viral genes from their own â to fix the break most of the time.
But over time, the researchers found that they could eliminate up to 90% of the latent virus by using a mix of two or three different meganucleases. It is simply harder to repair two breaks than one. With more tinkering, the results continued to improve.
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