Genital herpes is mainly caused by herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) but can also be caused by herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1) due to oral sex, the latter recently being increasingly common. Type 1 herpes causes oral herpes associated with cold sores around the mouth. Most people are carriers of the infection and are not exhibiting any symptoms hence unaware that they have been infected. The herpes virus is spread by skin-to-skin contact and can be transmitted during vaginal, oral or anal sex.
A study done in 1998 indicated that genital herpes is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) by the number of cases and 1.1 billion people around the world (15.9%) had asymptomatic genital herpes by 2013. The most common symptom is lesions on the genitalia, other symptoms may include pain, itching and burning sensation. Lesions occur 4-7 days after sexual exposure of HSV for the first time. There is a high recurrence of herpes simplex after the first episode.
There is no cure for genital herpes, however some drugs such as acyclovir shorten the outbreak, reduce the severity of symptoms and reduce the frequency of recurrence. Your doctor will take a swab and sometimes do a blood test to confirm diagnosis of herpes infection.
Prevention of genital herpes is to use barrier methods during sexual contact such as condoms. This would reduce the chances of transmission but will not protect sexual partners completely.
Soon a vaccine in the making may stop genital herpes. There is an experimental medicine that has been successful in monkeys and guinea pigs and show promise for the same results in humans according to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “In essence, we’re stimulating the immune system to attack the virus and at the same time preventing the virus from using some of the tools it has to thwart that immune attack,” author Dr. Harvey Friedman, an infectious diseases professor, said in the Penn statement. “If the vaccine behaves like this in people, it would limit lesions to appearing only about one day in 100, and the virus would be potentially contagious only about two in every 1,000 days.”
The vaccine protects against herpes simplex virus 2 which is the main cause of genital herpes.
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