What is Herpes?

Herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). Type 1 is frequently characterized by fever blisters or cold sores. Type 2 causes blisters and sores in the genital area. Type 1 can be spread to the genitals, though, through oral/genital contact.

How is it Spread?

HSV is prevalent among college students, and is spread through direct contact with an infected person. People with visible signs of the virus are highly contagious.

What Are the Symptoms of Genital Herpes?

Symptoms are not always apparent, so you may be infected and not know it. Herpes sufferers are plagued by frequent outbreaks. The symptoms are:

  • An initial minor rash and genital itching
  • Blisters on and around the genital area
  • The first episode is the most severe, and episodes may last 10-21 days
  • These symptoms may be accompanied by headache, fever, body aches, painful urination, or vaginal discharge
  • Lymph nodes may become swollen
  • 50% of sufferers experience a warning sign of tingling
  • Outbreaks are often accompanied by emotional stress

How is Herpes Treated?

  • There is no cure for herpes, but prescribed medicine may decrease symptoms
  • Warm baths or soaks for the infected area may help with pain
  • Since open lesions are present during an outbreak the risk of contracting other STDs is increased and testing is highly recommended.
  • A healthy lifestyle can help reduce the number of outbreaks. This includes reducing drinking and smoking, eating well, and limiting sexual activity.
  • Abstinence is the only fool proof way to avoid herpes, but if you are sexually active, there are ways to lower your risk: use condoms, form a monogamous relationship, limit your number of partners, get regular check-ups, and do not become sexually active when drinking alcohol or using other drugs as they reduce your ability to make sensible decisions.

Information provided by University of Missouri-Rolla Health Services