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Herpes Simplex Signs and Symptoms
For oral herpes (HSV-1), often signs or symptoms never occur for many people. But if an outbreak does happen, it can cause:
Likewise for genital herpes (HSV-2), many people infected often don’t show any symptoms. But if signs do show, they can include:
Also, sores may develop between two and 20 days after sexual contact with an infected person or the virus may remain dormant without causing an outbreak for months or years. Sores typically heal within two to six weeks.
How Do I Get Herpes Simplex?
These viruses are extremely contagious and spread easily. In the United States, more than 57% of people are infected with HSV-1 (oral herpes) and more than 16% are infected with HSV-2 (genital herpes). Most people get HSV-1 from kissing, sharing utensils or other skin-to-skin contact with infected individuals. This can also be spread from sharing lip balm or razors. HSV-2 typically spreads from sexual contact or intercourse.
Pregnant women should tell their doctor if she or her partner has genital herpes. Otherwise, giving birth while having genital herpes can spread the virus to the baby. Precautions taken before birth can prevent this. Infected people can also spread the virus to unaffected parts of their body by touching a herpes sore and immediately touching unaffected skin. Even if someone doesn’t have sores, they can still spread the virus.
How Do I Prevent the Spread of Herpes Simplex?
If you’re infected with oral herpes:
If you’re infected with genital herpes:
Prevalence of Outbreaks
Once you’re infected with herpes simplex, it never leaves your body, and the first outbreak is usually the worst. Since your body doesn’t have antibodies to fight the virus yet, symptoms tend to be more severe at first. Then once you develop more antibodies, they’re milder. Outbreaks can be either severe or not even noticeable for some. After the first outbreak, the virus moves into the nerve cells and remains dormant. Some never have another outbreak, while some mild outbreaks and others have more severe outbreaks. Recurrences can also be triggered by stress, fever, illness, sun exposure, menstruation or even surgery.
During an outbreak, diagnosis can typically be made by looking at the sores. A swab to examine may also be taken. Other tests, like a blood test, can also be used to detect the virus when sores aren’t present. Even though there is no cure, sores often clear up without treatment. But to relieve symptoms, an over-the-counter antiviral cream can help.
Prescription medications can also be options, such as acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir. These can shorten outbreaks and reduce the severity of symptoms. They can also help prevent spreading the virus.