What is Herpes?

 What is Herpes?

Herpes, vertical

The Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is a common virus that causes an outbreak of sores. Most commonly these sores form around the mouth or genitals, but it is possible for any part of the skin to be infected. HSV has no cure and stays in your body for life. More than half of Americans have oral herpes, and roughly one in six Americans have genital herpes. People with HSV live healthy, regular lives and continue to have sexual relationships. 

How is it transmitted?

HSV is transmitted through skin to skin contact, so you don’t have to have sex to contract herpes. In fact, the most common way of transmission of herpes is through kissing. Sores don’t have to be present for transmission, but HSV is most contagious when there are open sores. It is also likely to be transmitted if you touch an open sore and then the mouth, genitals, or eyes without washing your hands. 

Again, its most common for the genitals or mouth to be infected, but other areas of skin can get infected if the virus enters through a rash or a cut.  It is also possible, albeit rare, that a mother passes genital herpes to a baby through childbirth.

How is it not transmitted?

The virus dies quickly outside the body. This means herpes can’t be transmitted by coughing on someone or by sitting on a toilet seat. Also, the virus is not present the bloodstream, so there’s no risk of contracting it through any blood to blood contact.

What are the symptoms?

The first outbreak of sores will likely appear within 2 to 20 days after infection, but it could take years before any sores appear. It is also possible you may not have any symptoms that you can see or feel. HSV sores can often be confused with ingrown hairs or pimples found around the genitals, it’s the ambiguity of HSV that makes it such an easy disease to spread. 

It is important to know if you have HSV, and symptoms are not an accurate indicator. The most accurate way to know if you have any form of HSV is by taking an STD test. You can find and schedule an STD test through the SAFE App

What kind of damage can it cause?

Fortunately, HSV itself usually doesn’t lead to serious health problems. There is some risk to newborns if they have the infection, so you should consult your doctor if you have HSV and are pregnant. However, the most common issue, apart from discomfort, is that herpes can make it easier to contract HIV. This is because the sores give HIV a direct path into your body.

How is it treated?

There’s no cure for herpes, but a doctor can give you medicine to reduce symptoms and the chance of transmission. There are also home remedies such as keeping the infected area dry, placing an ice pack on the sore, and taking an ibuprofen or aspirin. Whether you take medicine or not, a healthy diet and reducing stress should reduce the frequency of outbreaks.

You shouldn’t feel as if your romantic life is over, but you should be honest with your partners about your infection. So if you’ve had unprotected sex then use the SAFE App to schedule a comprehensive STD panel at a nearby clinic. Use your insurance, and you only have to cover the copay, or if you prefer a cash-pay option, SAFE has the lowest option on the market at only $99.

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