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What is Genital Herpes?

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Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus, of which there are two strands – HSV-1 and HSV-2. As well as triggering symptoms in the genital region, the virus can also affect skin on the face, causing cold sores, which usually develop around the mouth and nose. It can also lead to whitlows, which appear on the hands.

How is it passed on?

The herpes simplex virus is extremely contagious. It is passed on through skin-to-skin contact, especially during vaginal, anal or oral sex. The virus is usually found on the moist skin lining the genitals, according to the NHS. It can also enter the body through small cracks in the skin, the BBC adds.

Becoming infected through other objects, however, is very unlikely due to the virus’ short life span outside the body. So it is safe to share towels, cups and cuttlery with someone carrying HSV.

What are the symptoms?

Genital herpes sometimes takes a while to make itself known. The sufferer can go weeks, months or even years without symptoms while being infected. Otherwise, symptoms usually begin to appear 4 to 7 days after infection. According to the BBC, these can include:

How is it treated?

If a person suspects they have genital herpes, they are usually screened by their doctor, who can provide a diagnosis. The first outbreak is usually treated with antiviral tablets. Self-help treatments that may also help relieve symptoms include:

The virus stays in the body even after the symptoms have passed. It lies dormant until it is reactivated, but until that point, the carrier is not infectious.

It is not exactly known what causes the virus to reactivate, but it is said that outbreaks tend to become less severe and less frequent as time passes. The NHS outlines several possible triggers, which may bring on another bout:

Click here to find out the best ways to treat cold sores and read more about sexually transmitted diseases Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and HIV/ AIDS.

Celebrities who reportedly carry the herpes virus include actors Robin Williams, David Hasselhoff and Liza Minnelli.

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

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