As one of the sexually transmitted infections that don't go away, herpes sometimes strikes fear in those who encounter it. If you suspect you have herpes, you're dating someone who does, or you simply want to know more about what it is, some basic facts will give you a grounding in the disease.
What is herpes?
The word 'herpes' refers to two types of virus: herpes simplex one and herpes simplex two. While herpes simplex one is usually responsible for causing the cold sores that appear on your lip, herpes simplex two is the strain that often causes genital herpes. HSV-2 can cause a cold sore-like rash on the external male or female genitalia and around the anus. This rash turns into blisters and ulcers, and may also arrive with flu-like symptoms and tender lymph nodes. Those who carry the disease may experience recurrent outbreaks.
How do you catch it?
The most common route of transmission is through vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Condoms do reduce the chances of catching it, but they don't eliminate the risk completely. There's also a small risk of passing the virus on via the fingers. One popular myth is that you can catch herpes via sharing towels or using public restrooms, but there is no science to back this idea up. Another common myth is that everyone who catches the disease experiences symptoms, or that they'll only pass it on during an outbreak. It's possible to pass herpes on when you're asymptomatic, or to spread it without realising you're a carrier. Approximately one in five people have the disease.
How can you prevent herpes?
Practicing safe sex significantly increases your chances of preventing it but doesn't reduce the chances entirely. You can visit your local sexual health clinic for aids that help with this, such as condoms, dental dams, and lubricants. Although you can pass herpes on when asymptomatic, the chances are higher during an outbreak. Therefore, if your partner is experiencing an outbreak, you may want to abstain or use barrier contraceptives. You may also want to ask your sexual health clinic about taking a drug called acyclovir during these periods, which also reduces the risk of transmitting the disease. In addition, regular sexual health screening between partners will allow you to remain aware of your sexual health status and keep others safe.
Herpes is a relatively common disease, but there's no cure. If your partner has herpes, there is a 4-10 percent chance that they'll transmit it to you. If you want to know more about the condition, have a chat to the experts at your local sexual health clinic. For more information, check out the sites like this one.