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How to Deal With Herpes

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Summary & Participants

Genital herpes remains one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases, but most don't know they are infected. Learn how to stay safe and find out what can be done to manage herpes.

Medically Reviewed On: July 21, 2009

Webcast Transcript

ANNOUNCER: Although it's not always openly discussed, genital herpes remains one of the most prevalent sexually transmitted diseases. It is also one that carries the greatest stigma.

TERRI WARREN, RN, APN: I think we don't hear a lot about genital herpes these days because it's been overshadowed by HIV. In the eighties, we heard a lot about herpes. It was on the cover of Time magazine, the scarlet "H."

It's an interesting thing. Herpes is so stigmatized in our society way out of proportion to anything that might be true about this virus.

ANNOUNCER: There are two main types of herpes viruses, herpes simplex virus 1 and herpes simplex virus 2. Genital herpes may be caused by either. However, the majority of cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV 2.

TERRI WARREN, RN, APN: Genital herpes is incredibly common. One out of four people in the United States over the age of eighteen have herpes simplex virus type 2.

If you look at the number of people at any time who have chlamydia, genital wart virus, hepatitis B, HIV, they don't come close to totaling the number of people who have HSV-2 infection.

ANNOUNCER: There are many misconceptions about genital herpes and one of the biggest is how the virus is transmitted.

TERRI WARREN, RN, APN: Genital herpes is transmitted through sexual contact and that sexual contact can be intercourse, can be mouth-to-genital contact or could be just genital-to-genital rubbing. It doesn't take penetration to get genital herpes.

We don't believe that herpes is transmitted through inanimate objects with the exception of sex toys. Actively using sex toys between people when one has herpes and the other does not could transmit that virus.

It's not transmitted through hot tubs or swimming pools or toilet seats.

ANNOUNCER: When a person is infected with the herpes virus, it may not present with symptoms, and generally people are unaware they have been infected.

TERRI WARREN, RN, APN: We used to think that people who got first-episode herpes infections always knew it, that it was painful and dramatic and obvious. What we know now is that probably 75 percent of first-episode herpes infections go completely unnoticed by the people that are infectious.

ANNOUNCER: When symptoms do occur, they usually appear from time to time as outbreaks.

TERRI WARREN, RN, APN: The person who has genital HSV-2 infection, on average, has around five outbreaks a year. They may present with either a single sore or multiple sores. They could be very uncomfortable and sick, or they could be hardly recognizing what's going on with them.

They may have multiple, painful genital lesions, have difficulty initiating a stream of urine, headache, sensitive to light, flu symptoms. That happens, but that's much more unusual than getting herpes and being totally unaware that it's happened.

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