Genital herpes is a contagious strain of the herpes simplex virus (HSV), that is transmitted
only through sexual contact and is usually passed via small cuts in the skin or mucous membranes when having sexual
contact with an infected partner. It is not possible to catch genital herpes through contact with toilet seats,
handles, towels, etc. - the virus cannot survive outside the body.
The symptoms of genital herpes can include itching and general discomfort in the genital area -
occasionally accompanied by pain and sores.
As with other strains of similar viruses, such as those causing genital warts, treatment is available for the
symptoms, but there is no known cure for the virus itself. Once someone is infected with genital herpes, the virus
is always present in their system.
At times it may appear that the disease has cleared up, but unfortunately it is only the symptoms that have
gone: the underlying problem is still there. These 'clear' episodes are referred to as "silent", and when symptoms
are visible, it is called an "outbreak".
At times when the symptoms are visible, it is commonly referred to as a herpes outbreak, and when there are no
visible signs of the disease, it is known as silent.
There are two types of the herpes virus:
- HSV-1: Known as oral herpes, and the most common type of herpes, this is commonly known as cold sores or
fever blisters. Of course, there are many ways of getting cold sores, and acquiring them sexually is the least
However, although it is generally not the originating cause of genital herpes, it is becoming increasingly
common for cold sores to be associated with that condition.
This virus is usually contracted after having oral sex with a partner who has an active herpes sore on their
mouth or lips.
- HSV-2: This is the main cause of genital herpes. It is spread through vaginal or anal sex with an infected
As mentioned above, there is currently no cure available for either of the herpes viruses, although effective
treatments for the symptoms are available and are widely recommended. These anti-viral treatments, accelerate the
natural rate at which the outbreak would normally disappear, and may prevent, or at least delay, future
It is a staggering fact that one in every five Americans between the ages of 25 and 55 suffer from the herpes
virus. It is indiscriminate in that it affects both men and women, and it is insidious in that the vast majority of
carriers do not realize that they have it.
Studies indicate that as many as 90% of the sufferers are unaware that they have genital herpes. They are asymptomatic and consequently risk passing it on to
their partners every time they are sexually active. The use of condoms, while not 100% effective, can help to
reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases, including herpes.