What is it?
A viral infection of the genital areas. It can also infect the mouth and lips.
How common is it?
At least 50 million people are already infected with herpes, or about one in six people. An estimated 1 million new infections occur each year.
What are the symptoms?
Most people have no symptoms. Herpes 1 typically causes cold sores and fever blisters in or around the mouth; Herpes 2 typically causes genital sores or blisters. But both viruses can cause sores in either area. A herpes outbreak can start as red bumps and then turn into painful blisters or sores. During the first outbreak , it can also lead to flu-like symptoms (like a fever, headaches, and swollen glands).
How do you get it?
Through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can also be passed through skin-to-skin sexual contact, kissing, and rarely, from mother to child during childbirth.
How do you treat it?
There is no cure for herpes– the virus stays in the body and may cause recurrent outbreaks. Medications can help treat symptoms, reduce the frequency of outbreaks, and reduce the likelihood of spreading it to sex partners.
What are the consequences if left untreated?
Increased risk for infection of other STDs, including HIV. Some people with herpes may get recurrent sores. Passing herpes from mother to newborn is rare, but an infant with herpes can become very ill.
Get Yourself Tested
If you think you may have been exposed or are experiencing symptoms, see a health care provider about testing. Anyone who has had sex may be at risk for an STD.
Can it be prevented?
There is no vaccine for herpes. Abstaining from sex and sexual contact is the surest way to avoid getting an STD. Using condoms every time reduces the risk of contracting STDs, but it is possible to contract herpes in areas not covered by a condom. If you or your partner tests positive, avoid sexually contact if sores are present. Even if a person does not have any symptoms he or she can still infect sex partners so use protection.
If you are sexually active, using condoms consistently and correctly, from start to finish, is one of the best ways to help prevent STDs. Condoms are the ONLY method that protects sexually active people from both STDs and pregnancy.