For all the millions of people diagnosed with genital herpes each year, there are millions more who have been infected with the sexually transmitted disease, unbeknownst to them.
Genital herpes is caused by the highly contagious herpes simplex virus which affects the genital region, with break outs often also occuring on the face, causing cold sores. It can also lead to whitlows, which appear on the hands.
Unfortunately misinformation is rampant when it comes to the virus, of which there are two strands — HSV-2 and the more common HSV-1.
Here are some of the most common facts and myths regarding herpes:
Sex is off limits afer a proven infection
Fact: An infected person can still have sex, but it is important to abstain from sexual contact if you have symptoms, or oral or genital sores. If you are asymptomatic (you don’t have any signs or symptoms, but the virus is still present on the skin), you could still be contagious and so it is important to use condoms. Antiviral drugs suppress symptomatic and asymptomatic symptoms and drugs such as acyclovir, valaciclover and famiclovir have been shown to reduce asymptomatic HSV shedding by as much as 80 – 90%.
Having herpes is a sign that you are promiscuous
Fact: Herpes is very common and can affect anyone who has ever had sex. The number of sexual partners is not a factor in contracting the disease as, contrary to other STDs, genital herpes persists indefinitely and can be transmitted for many years, perhaps for life. Anytime that you practice unsafe sex, even with a loved one, you increase your risk for all STDs.
Cold sores and herpes and two entirely different things
Fact: Cold sores act as a form of herpes and like herpes, stem from the herpes simplex virus. If you have oral-genital sex with someone who has a cold sore, this virus can give you genital herpes. Both types of the herpes virus can infect any region of the body if not treated. Merely touching a blister or herpes sore is enough for the infection to spread to other body parts.
You can get genital herpes from toilet seats and other inanimate objects
Fact: The genital herpes virus dries out when it is exposed to air, and is quite fragile. The microorganisms that cause genital herpes can’t survive outside the human body on a surface like a toilet seat for very long. There have been no proven cases of genital herpes transmission from a toilet seat.
Also read about Jenna Jameson calling the porn industry a “ticking time bomb”, how a new vaginal gel could cut the risk of HIV infection and how Facebook may be the cause of a recent increase in syphilis cases.
Images: Wikimedia Commons and oralherpespicture.com