Let’s Chat About Herpes

Written By Caitlin Schille

Let’s take a walk back to junior high school and do a refresher course on herpes.

Here are some facts about herpes:

Is herpes a virus or a bacteria?
Herpes is a virus. Viruses are smaller than bacteria and need a living host to survive- such as your body.

Where can herpes affect me?
Herpes causes sores in two places on your body- your genitals and/or your mouth.

How many people have herpes?
Herpes is really common- about 50% of Americans have herpes of the mouth, and about 15% of Americans have herpes of the genitals. So don’t be embarrassed if you have herpes. You probably know someone who has it too.

How is herpes spread?
It’s spread through person contact, meaning skin-to-skin contact with the infected areas. This means that vaginal sex, oral sex, kissing (even casual kissing like a quick peck) etc. can cause the spread of herpes. If you touch an infected area and then touch someone else without washing your hands first, you can spread herpes to that person.

Is herpes dangerous or fatal?
Luckily, herpes itself isn’t terribly dangerous- you won’t die from herpes or get gravely ill from herpes. However, herpes can cause significant discomfort and pain.

Why should I treat my herpes if it’s not dangerous?
The sores, or “flare ups”, that happen with herpes can cause breaks in the skin, and breaks in the skin can increase your risk of HIV infection. So, it’s really important to treat your herpes and minimize the risk of other infections.

How can I prevent myself from getting herpes?
Avoid sexual contact with someone known to be infected by herpes. Limit number of sexual contact partners; it is a safe idea to be in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who you know is not infected with herpes or other sexually transmitted diseases. Use latex condoms correctly when you do have sex.

What do I do if I think I might have herpes?
Go to your doctor! He or she can diagnose you if you do, in fact, have herpes, and he or she can prescribe appropriate medication. Your doctor will also have information on how to prevent spreading herpes to any future partners.

Is herpes curable?
No, but there are medications that can prevent or minimize “flare-ups.” These medications also make it less likely that you will spread herpes to someone else.


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