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STI Info: Genital Herpes


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Genital Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1(HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). The majority of Genital Herpes cases are due to HSV-2 and have minimal to no symptoms. It is transmitted through contact with an infected partner, which can include sexual contact.




When an outbreak does occur it usually consists of one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum, or mouth. Over time, the blisters do break, leaving tender sores. It may take two to four weeks to heal the open sores. The first time an outbreak occurs, individuals may have flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches, or swollen glands. Repeat outbreaks are common, especially during the first year. However, HSV-2 outbreaks appear less severe after the initial outbreak and tend to decrease with time. 


According to the Center for Disease Control, genital herpes is fairly common in the United States, infecting 1 in 6 people ages 14-49. 


Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are spread through contact with infected areas. Fluid found in a herpes sore carry the virus and can still be spread through contact with skin that is free from blisters or sores and has no visible signs of an outbreak. Most commonly HSV-2 is spread through sexual contact including vaginal and anal. HSV-1 is more commonly associated with sores in or around the mouth (cold sores) and can be spread through oral sex. HSV-1 infections to the genitals are usually due to oral to genital interaction. HSV-1 infections to the genitals are less common and tend to have fewer and less severe outbreaks.

Diagnosis and Treatment

HSV infections are usually diagnosed through visual inspection from a health care professional. Due to the variation in symptoms across individuals a blood test or sample from the sore may be necessary. It is important to note that blood tests do not give a conclusive diagnose for either HSV-1 or HSV-2.

Local Testing Available at:

Eastern Illinois University Health Service:
Phone: (217) 581-3013


There is currently no cure for HSV-1 or HSV-2. There are antiviral medications that can prevent and lessen the severity of outbreaks. However there are suppressive therapies that can decrease the likelihood of spreading the virus to a partner. It is better to encourage your partner to be tested and treated as well in order for the treatment to work properly.

Prevention and Risk Reduction

The only 100% effective way to prevent genital herpes is to abstain from sexual activity and/or activity involving genital contact. If you choose to be sexually active, being in a monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected significantly reduces your risk of infection. In addition, reducing your number of sexual partners can help to reduce your risk. Genital herpes is found in areas that can be covered by a latex condom, yet they can also be found in areas that are not. Correct and consistent use of condoms can reduce your risk of a genital herpes infection only if the condom covers the infected area. Individuals with herpes should abstain from sexual activity with uninfected partners when lesions or other symptoms of herpes are present. It is important for both partners to be tested and treated for genital herpes. Even if a person does not have any symptoms they can still infect sex partners.