Herpes is caused by a common virus – herpes simplex virus (HSV).  Many people have been exposed to HSV and have never had any symptoms.  Other people will be exposed to the virus and develop symptoms within a couple days or even months later.

We used to talk about the two different types: HSV-1 usually associated with mouth infection and the cause of cold sores, and HSV-2 is usually associated with genital infection.  But 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 get sores on your genitals if you receive oral from a partner with a cold sore
  • Herpes can spread even if there is no symptoms or sores present
  • Mom can pass on to baby during birth

What kind of symptoms could I have if I am infected?

Many people have no symptoms even though they have contracted HSV.

Others may have:

  • 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
  • Avoid sex if your partner has an active infection or showing early signs herpes

How do I get tested?

  • A diagnosis can often be made by looking at the affected area
  • Swab of a sore or a blood test (blood test is not covered by OHIP so will cost you personally)
  • Results take 1-2 weeks to come back

What if I test positive?

  • You will be provided with antiviral treatment (pills) that shortens outbreaks and lessens the severity
  • It may be helpful to talk to you sexual partners about your diagnosis.

How do I know it’s gone?

  • There is no cure for herpes but it is very manageable with antiviral medication.

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