HSV is spread by direct contact with herpes lesions (blisters and ulcers), mucosal surfaces, genital secretions, or oral secretions.HSV-1
is most often contracted during childhood, by contact with saliva, such as kissing.
HSV-1 may also be sexually transmitted by oral sex; in fact, the rates of HSV-1 genital infections are increasing due to changing sexual practices.HSV-2
is primarily spread during vaginal, anal or oral sex.
Once infected, HSV is shed periodically in the human genital tract and mucosal surfaces. Shedding often occurs without symptoms (subclinical shedding) or with atypical symptoms. Most people contract HSV during these periods. Therefore, a person infected with HSV can spread the virus even when no active HSV blisters or sores are present.
How can we tell that we may have HSV
Most people infected with HSV have no symptoms or have very mild symptoms that can be mistaken for another skin condition.
The average incubation period is 4 days (with a range between 2 to 12 days) after exposure.
When symptoms are present, they include:
• One or more vesicles, or small blisters, on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The blisters break and leave painful, shallow ulcers that may take 2 to 4 weeks to heal
• The first outbreak of herpes is often associated with fever, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, or headache
• Recurrent outbreaks are common and associated with prodromal symptoms, such as localized genital pain or tingling, or shooting pains in the legs, hips or buttocks, which occur hours to days before the eruption of herpetic lesions
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR
) or nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT/NAT
) are the most sensitive tests. Tests may be done on a swab taken from the ulcer.
Alternatively, herpes serologic tests are blood tests that detect antibodies (IgG) to HSV-1 and HSV-2.
HSV cultures can be done on swab samples but are not routinely done now since sensitivity is poor.Cross Street Medical
offers all relevant HSV screening tests. Speak to our doctors about what you may need. Female doctors are available by appointment.
What does HSV do to our bodies
People with suppressed immune systems (such as HIV
-infected persons) may be at risk of :
• Painful genital ulcers that can be severe and persistent
• Rare but serious complications such as aseptic meningitis (inflammation of the linings of the brain)
• Extra-genital lesions (e.g. buttocks, groin, thigh, finger, or eye)
People with herpes lesions have an increased risk of contracting HIV from an HIV-positive person.
Herpes infection can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth, or babies may be infected shortly after birth, which could result in a potentially fatal neonatal herpes infection.
Infants born to women who acquire genital herpes close to the time of delivery and are shedding virus at delivery are at a much higher risk for developing neonatal herpes, compared with women who have recurrent genital herpes.
What is the treatment for HSV
HSV is a lifelong infection because the virus cannot be removed completely by the body’s immune system. Treatment usually involves antiviral drugs to reduce the physical severity of outbreaks, as well as to reduce the risk of transmission to others.
People who contract genital herpes may be worried about how it will impact their overall health, sex life, and relationships. It is important to accept that while herpes is not curable, it is a manageable condition.
As such, counseling by a doctor is very useful, as it helps a person to better understand how to manage the infection.
Our doctor at Cross Street Medical have the expertise to provide proper advise and counseling for managing herpes. We also offer all relevant treatments for HSV. Speak to our doctors today about what you may need. Female doctors are available by appointment. We ensure patient confidentiality.
How do we prevent HSV infection
- Avoid sex during an outbreak of herpes
- Use suppressive antiviral therapy; discuss treatment with your doctor
- Use condoms consistently, including during oral sex