Herpes is caused by a common virus, the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Many people exposed to HSV may never develop symptoms. Other people may develop symptoms within a couple days, or even months later. There are two different types of the herpes: HSV1 – which is usually associated with a mouth infection (and the cause of cold sores), and HSV2 – which is usually associated with genital infections. We now know you can get either type in either place.
How would I get it?
- Spread through unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex with an infected partner
- You can develop sores on your genitals if you receive oral from a partner with a cold sore
- Herpes can be spread even if there are no symptoms or sores present (asymptomatic viral shedding)
- It may also be passed from an infected mother to infant during birth
What kind of symptoms could I have if I am infected?
Many people will not develop symptoms even though they have contracted HSV. Others may experience:
- Flu-like symptoms (fever, headache, muscle pain)
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Pain when peeing
- Tingling, itching, or burning right before a sore appears
- Blister-like sores
How do I prevent this?
- Condoms and dental dams reduce transmission but do not provide full protection due to skin to skin transmission, thus no barrier method is 100% effective
- Avoid any sexual contact if your partner has an active infection or showing early signs of herpes
How do I get tested?
- A diagnosis can often be made by examination by a physician
- Swab of a sore or a blood test; expect results to come back in 1-2 weeks – please note there can be a 3 month window period, meaning if you were exposed in the last 3 months, your result may not be accurate and should be repeated once out of the window period.
What if I test positive?
- You will be provided with antiviral treatment to take during outbreaks
- You should inform all sexual partners so they have the option to get tested
How do I know it’s gone?
- There is no cure for herpes but it is very manageable with antiviral medication
Need more info? Check out these links:
- The New Zealand Herpes Foundation
- This is a great Ted Talk: STIs aren’t a consequence. They’re inevitable.
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