Because genital herpes is so widespread and easy to transfer, it is important for sexually active teens to understand the risk involved with unprotected sex.
What is genital herpes?
- Genital herpes is caused by a virus, the herpes simplex.
- There are two different types of the herpes virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2
- Most forms of the genital herpes infection are caused by HSV-2 when the genital area is affected.
- HSV-1 is mostly responsible for causing cold sores and fever blisters on or around the mouth
- Although HSV-2 is mostly the cause behind infection around the genitals, an infection with HSV-1 can still spread to the genitals during oral sex through secretions in saliva.
- Genital herpes never completely goes away. Instead when a person is not showing symptoms, the virus is actually hiding in the body preparing for another outbreak.
- Sometimes a person infected with herpes may never show signs or symptoms, although it can still be passed to other sexual partners.
- If a person does demonstrate outward symptoms, they will typically see about four to five outbreaks each year.
- The first thing to remember is that you may not have any clue that your partner is infect with the genital herpes virus if they are not showing any symptoms. Those infected can go through long periods of time without having an outbreak. Sexually active teens and young adults need to keep in mind that just because there are no visible symptoms, it does not mean their partner is free and clear from infection unless they have undergone STD testing to find out for sure.
- The only way a person can ever avoid contracting genital herpes or any other type of sexually transmitted infection is to abstain from sexual acts containing genital to genital or mouth to genital contact.
- Using a latex condom does not protect the areas it does not cover like the mouth or around the genital or anus, however its use may lessen the risk of contracting a genital herpes infection.
How is genital herpes transferred?
- Genital to genital contact or mouth to genital contact can spread the infection either through a cold sore on the mouth or sores on or around a person’s genitals. However, even if a person is in between outbreaks and is not exhibiting symptoms, they can still pass the infection to their partner.
- To clear up one misconception, however, you cannot catch genital herpes from an object like a toilet seat. The herpes virus can’t live outside the body for that long.
Signs & Symptoms:
- Symptoms usually begin about 2 to 20 days after infection.
- The symptoms usually being with itching or pain around the genital area followed by the appearance of sores.
- These sores may show on the vagina, penis, scrotum or anus.
- The sores begin as red bumps that later can turn into red, watery blisters that may open up , ooze and bleed.
- Other symptoms include fever-like symptoms including fever, headache, sore throat and swollen lymph nodes.
- Although there is no way to cure herpes, it can still be treated with medication to lessen the symptoms. Outbreaks may contain many of the same symptoms as when the person was first infected, but they will most likely be less severe and shorter in duration.
- Anitviral medication is typically prescribed to help control the genital herpes symptoms during outbreaks
- Your doctor can explain the best ways to keep the sores clean and dry to help diminish pain and infection
- You can also take daily suppressive therapy medication to help reduce the chance of transferring genital herpes to other sexual partners
Sources: cdc.gov, kidshealth.org