There are many misconceptions about Herpes. If you do have Herpes, you’re not alone. In MENA, the prevalence of HSV I is as high as 97.5% in some populations [1]. There are over 100 herpes virus types, of which eight can be found in humans. Types I and II are the most common [2].

The basics:

  • Herpes is an infection most commonly caused by two closely related viruses: Herpes Simplex I (HSV I) and Herpes Simplex II (HSV II)
  • The virus is very common and highly infectious.

Have you ever noticed a blister, also known as a ‘cold sore’, around your mouth? This is most likely due to HSV I. HSV II, on the other hand, typically causes sores around the genitals when active.

How can I catch Herpes?

The virus can be transmitted from one person to another through both sexual and non-sexual contact. Due to this, it can be classed as both a sexually transmitted infection and a non-sexually transmitted infection, depending on how the individual contracts the virus. Through oral sex, it is possible to transmit oral HSV I to the genital area and HSV II to the oral area.

Some people mistakenly believe that Herpes can be spread by toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing or eating utensils. This is false! The virus rapidly dies when it is away from the skin.

Occasionally, the virus may be passed on even when no visible symptoms are present. This is known as a process called ‘asymptomatic viral shedding’. It most often happens in the early stages of infection, and just before or after an outbreak. This means that, even if you avoid kissing your partner when they have an active sore, you could still contract Herpes.

When contracting HSV II for the first time, a person may also experience other symptoms such as fever and body aches. Just under half of those affected experience recurrent outbreaks.

The first outbreak is normally the most severe, whilst later outbreaks may become milder over time. Sores inside the anus or vagina usually only appear on the first infection. Further outbreaks tend to show externally on the skin and genitals.

Living with Herpes

Once contracted, the virus permanently lives in the body of an infected person. Whilst some individuals experience recurrent outbreaks, other people may never be aware that the virus is present in their body as it remains inactive.

When symptoms of HSV I or HSV II are present, people with Herpes are advised to abstain from any form of sexual intercourse. Using a condom may not cover the infected area during intercourse as the sores are often present on areas not covered by a condom.

There are ways to decrease the frequency and severity of the outbreaks. Anti-viral medications, both pills and creams, can help to control the infection. Additionally, there are lifestyle changes which can also help to control the time between outbreaks and their severity. This includes maintaining personal hygiene, a healthy diet and avoiding excessive exposure to sunlight.

Herpes Testing

In both men and women, the symptoms of Herpes can be mistaken for other types of bacterial, fungal or sexually transmitted infections. The only way to know if a person has a Herpes infection is to test for it.

If you do not have any symptoms, we can test you for Herpes by taking a small sample of blood. If you have a suspected blister, we can swab it to see if it is caused by the Herpes virus. Contact us today to arrange your confidential appointment.

Sources

[1] Journal of Medical Virology

[2] Medical Microbiology

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