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Genital Herpes Risks & Complications

How is genital herpes spread?

Genital herpes can be contracted from infected bodily fluids, including semen, vaginal fluid, saliva or herpes lesions, sores or blister fluid. Genital herpes can only be prevented by abstaining from sexual activities.

Having open blisters or sores, and infected bodily fluids increase the chances of spreading genital herpes. Even if someone is infected and does not show any symptoms, transmission of genital herpes can occur. Genital herpes cannot be spread through toiletries, toilet seats, clothes or utensils, because the virus cannot survive outside the body.

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Two-thirds of genital herpes cases are symptomless, and because much of the genitals are left uncovered by condoms, genital herpes can still be contracted during sex even if a condom is used. Our herpes tests are confidential, affordable, and no appointment is needed.

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How can I prevent getting genital herpes?

Abstaining from sexual intercourse is the only 100% effective way of preventing or spreading genital herpes. Being in a long-term monogamous relationship with someone who has been tested and does not have HSV-1 or HSV-2 can greatly help reduce your chances of contracting genital herpes. Latex or polyurethane condoms can help lower the risk of transmission of genital herpes for those who are sexually active, but because condoms do not cover all of the area that may be infected, genital HSV-1 and HSV-2 can still be contracted while using a condom.

What are the complications from untreated genital herpes?

Some herpes viruses can cause meningitis or encephalitis. HSV encephalitis is mainly caused by HSV-1, whereas meningitis is more often caused by HSV-2. Herpes viruses have been linked to Recurrent Lymphocytic Meningitis (Mollaret’s meningitis), which is characterized by sudden attacks of meningitis symptoms that last for 2-7 days and are separated by symptom-free (latent) intervals lasting for weeks, months or years.severe and persistent in people with suppressed immune systems. This is why HIV-infected persons are prone to complications of Herpes 2.

If you have genital herpes, it is important to tell your partner.

Genital herpes is a very contagious sexually transmitted disease, and if you have been diagnosed positive, it is important to tell your partner. This will allow him or her to help avoid genital herpes complications by getting tested and treated as soon as possible.

If you are pregnant, get tested for genital herpes

Since genital herpes can be passed from mother to child during childbirth, it is important to get tested if you are pregnant. Herpes infections can be especially dangerous for infants. According to CDC, at the onset of labor women should be carefully examined and questioned to evaluate the presence of prodromal symptoms or herpetic lesions (blisters). If symptoms or outbreaks are present, a cesarean delivery is recommended to prevent the transmission of the virus to the infant. If the baby contracts the virus during birth, it can affect the skin, eyes, mouth, central nervous system, and/or even spread to internal organs via disseminated disease which can cause organ failure and lead to death. Disseminated diseases that result can include hepatitis, pneumonitis, disseminated intravascular coagulation, or a combination, with or without encephalitis or skin disease.

Is there a link between HIV and herpes?

Genitally, the herpes viruses cause genital ulcerative disease, which makes it easier to transmit and acquire HIV. This occurs when there are blisters or tears in the skin or mucous membranes (mouth, vagina, and rectum) allowing for the HIV virus to have an easier access to the body leading to increased possibility of infections like HIV.

  1. "Prevention - STD Information from CDC." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/default.htm
  2. "Genital Herpes." The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Genital-Herpes?IsMobileSet=false
  3. "Viral Meningitis." Meningitis Research Foundation. https://www.meningitis.org/meningitis/what-is-meningitis/causes/viral-meningitis
  4. "STD Facts - Genital Herpes (Detailed Version)." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes-detailed.htm

Medically Reviewed by on Jun 18, 2019

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