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Genital Herpes (HSV-2)

Sexually Transmitted Disease Facts

Type of Infection: Genital Herpes are typically caused by the herpes simplex virus, HSV-2. Young people and STDs.

Modes of Transmission for Genital Herpes: Herpes is spread by direct sexual skin-to-skin contact with the infected site during vaginal, anal or oral sex. Another strain of the virus, Herpes Simplex Type 1 (HSV-1) is most commonly spread by nonsexual contact and usually causes sores on the lips. However, HSV-1 can also be transmitted through oral sex and can cause genital infections.

Symptoms of Genital Herpes: Symptoms are often very mild and may include an itching or burning sensation; pain in the legs, buttocks or genital area; or vaginal discharge. Blisters or painful open sores may appear, usually in the genital area, buttocks, anus, and thighs, although they can erupt anywhere. Sores heal after several weeks but may recur. Learn more about the signs and symptoms of genital herpes.

Treatment for Genital Herpes: There is no known cure. An anti-viral drug is usually effective in reducing the frequency and duration of HSV-2 outbreaks.

Possible Consequences of Genital Herpes for the Infected Person: An infected person with sores present has an increased risk that exposure to HIV will lead to infection because the sores provide an entry point for the AIDS virus.

Possible Consequences of Genital Herpes for the Fetus and Newborn: Women who develop a first episode of genital herpes during pregnancy may be at higher risk for premature delivery. Outbreaks present during labor usually indicate the need for a cesarean delivery because infection passed to the newborn during childbirth may result in possible death or serious brain damage. Maternal transmission rate is 30% for women with active herpes.

Prevention of Genital Herpes: Abstaining from vaginal, anal and oral sex with an infected person is the only 100% effective means of preventing the sexual transmission of genital herpes. Latex condoms can reduce but not eliminate the risk of contracting the disease during sex. It is still possible to contract genital herpes, even though using a condom, via sores in the genital area.

More Information about Genital Herpes: Learn more about herpes and the latest developments in diagnosis.

Source: W Cates, "Reproductive Tract Infections," In Hatcher et al, Contraceptive Technology, Ardent Media, 2005.
Photo Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of STD Prevention, "Herpes," STD Clinical Slides, 2003, www.cdc.gov/std/training/clinicalslides. Public Health Agency of Canada, Division of STD Prevention, STD Self Directed Learning Module, Slide Gallery, "HSV," www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/slm-maa/slides/hsv/index-eng.php.