Genital Herpes… The "Silent Bug"
Genital Herpes… or The “Silent Bug”
Herpes infections are caused by the herpes silmplex virus. While labial herpes (sores on the lips) are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), genital herpes is mostly caused by herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2); HSV-1 may also be transmitted during oral sex and cause genital herpes.
Genital Herpes: Frequency
Genital Herpes is one of the most common viral STDs world wide. The CDC estimates a yearly new infection rate of more than 750,000 people in the US, mostly aged 14- 49 years. The high infection rate is due to the “silent” nature of the virus and its easy transmission through skin contact. While labial herpes is mainly transmitted by facial contact (kissing, etc.), genital herpes is transmitted mainly through sexual activity (oral, vaginal, or anal). because of its route of transmission, genital herpes is more likely to be transmitted from an infected male to its female sexual partner; in fact, one of six women and only one of nine men are infected with the virus.
Genital Herpes: Transmission, Symptoms and Complications
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While active skin sores located on lips or genital area can easily be determined as the source of infection and avoided during their active phase, “silent” infections without visible skin sore are the most frequent source of transmission: even with an intact skin and without a visible sore, an infected individual may transmit the virus to the sexual partner. While labial herpes is mainly transmitted by facial contact (kissing, etc.), genital herpes is transmitted mainly through sexual activity (oral, vaginal, or anal).
Most infected individuals may not have any visible sores or skin lesions (“silent” infection). During the “silent” phase of infection the virus is dormant in the nerve routes. Multiple factors such as stress or a cold may lower the body’s immune system and allow the virus to “break out”. During an outbreak skin lesions appear as single or multiple sores on the lips, the genital area, or the rectum. First outbreaks are usually associated with flu like symptoms with fever, body aches, and general feeling of illness. The sores then burst leaving behind painful skin lesions.
Recurrent herpes outbreaks are very common after the initial outbreak, but less intense and faster in recovery.
Complications of genital herpes infection may occur if the fluid from the blisters or sores are transferred to other and especially sensible parts of the body, like the eyes. Furthermore, since genital herpes infection sores may bleed easily, they may be a potential route of HIV transmission.
Genital herpes may also result in complications for babies of pregnant women and require immediate attention if infected during pregnancy.
Genital Herpes: Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention
Genital herpes is usually diagnosed by visual examination of the typical sores of an outbreak. Your health care provider may also chose to detect the virus from the blister fluid. During an outbreak free period, blood tests may be able to show the virus.
While there is no cure for herpes infections, the treatment of genital herpes is easy. Antiviral medication are able to shorten or prevent outbreaks, and continues use may lower the risk of transmission. Latex condoms are also an effective way of infection prevention, although infection and outbreaks may still occur in non-covered body areas. Sexual activity should be avoided if visible skin sores are present.
The main and only safe solution for genital herpes prevention is either abstinence from sexual activity or a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and proven to be free of infection.