HERPES (Herpes Simplex)
- What is it? Two types of a viral infection characterized by periodic outbreaks of painful sores. Stress, sunburn, and certain foods are the primary causes of a herpes outbreak.
- How is it contracted? Both herpes simplex virus-1 and virus-2 may be transmitted through sex, or by kissing or touching any affected area. A condom can prevent herpes transmission during vaginal or anal sex, but oral contact with genitals or open sores anywhere can spread the disease. Washing hands can also minimize transmission.
- Incubation Period: Anywhere from five to twenty days
- Symptoms: Herpes simplex virus-1 usually shows up as cold sores or blisters. For those who have herpes simplex virus-2, some have no symptoms, while others may show signs of an infection from five to twenty days after having sex with an infected partner. Early symptoms can include a burning sensation in the genitals, low back pain, pain when urinating, and flu-like symptoms. A short while later, small red bumps may appear around the genitals or on the mouth; later these bumps become painful blisters which then crust over, form a scab, and heal.
Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1
Cold sores or "fever blisters" on the lips are a sign of herpes virus infection, usually caused by the type of herpes virus known as human herpes virus 1, or HHV-1. HHV-1 is usually not an STD, and it can be spread through kissing or household contact. It can also spread to the genitals. There is no cure for herpes infection, but medications can reduce the severity and duration of outbreaks.