In today’s highly social world where smart phones with dating applications facilitate and encourage people to quickly meet and get to know one another, both casually and for longer term relationships, there are some basic facts that everyone should know about oral and genital herpes, how they are transmitted, and how to prevent infection of the disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of the US population carries the oral herpes virus (HSV-1), and one in every six Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 carry the genital herpes virus (HSV-2), many without even being aware of it. It is estimated that approximately 776,000 Americans become infected with the herpes virus every year.
Herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and can easily be spread to unsuspecting partners. To protect yourself and your partners, knowledge is key. With the information provided in this article, you will have a better understanding of the herpes virus and be armed with ways to protect yourself and your partners.
Oral herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Oral herpes commonly appears as cold sores or fever blisters on or around the lips. The HSV-1 sores can also appear above the upper lip, in the nose or on the check or chin.
A primary or new infection of oral herpes tends to be more serious than those of recurring outbreaks with small blisters appearing and lasting for eight to ten days. Subsequent outbreaks tend to be less severe and last a shorter period of time. Of course, symptoms vary from person to person and some people may have no outward appearance of the virus during an outbreak.
Oral herpes is transmitted through direct contact between a sore or contagious area and broken skin or a membrane tissue. Kissing the mouth is one of the most common ways that the HSV-1 virus is spread. Performing oral sex is another. Oral herpes can be transmitted even when there are no physical symptoms present.
Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Genital herpes is transmitted by any type of sexual contact in the genital area where the HSV-2 virus enters the skin or mucous membranes through microscopic breaks.
Symptoms of genital herpes include painful blisters or ulcers around the genitals, itching, and burning or tingling sensations in the skin. With the initial infection, some people also experience fever, body aches or swollen lymph nodes.
There is no cure for genital herpes and the frequency of outbreaks vary by individual. Antiviral medications and natural remedies can be used to sooth and reduce the severity of the symptoms.
Preventing the Infection Of Herpes
There are several common sense steps you can take to prevent the spread of the herpes virus. By paying attention to your body and practicing the following steps, you can ensure the health and wellbeing of yourself and your partner.
For oral herpes, anyone experiencing an outbreak of the virus should abstain from kissing others directly on the mouth or performing oral sex. Do not kiss infants, children or pregnant women at all during an outbreak. These activities can be resume once all signs of the virus have healed and the skin looks normal again. Many people experience warning symptoms of an upcoming outbreak. Even if no sores develop over the next day or two, it is wise to assume the virus is active and can be spread, so kissing and oral sex should not be performed for eight to ten days after these early signs.
Preventing the spread of genital herpes is more difficult than oral herpes. As with oral herpes, abstinence should be practiced as soon as you feel the warning signs of an outbreak and during any active outbreak of the virus. You should wait seven days after the sore heals before resuming sexual activity. Consistently using condoms during all sexual activity greatly helps in preventing the spread of the disease. However, care should be taken during sexual activity with any skin area not covered by the condom and during oral sex.
Other tips for preventing the infection of herpes include:
- Don’t touch any type of herpes sore, if you do immediately wash your hands with soap and water
- Wash your hands with soap and water after going to the bathroom, before rubbing your eyes, and before touching a contact lens
- Don’t wet contact lenses with saliva
- If infected with the herpes virus take small daily doses of anti-herpes medication