Everyone knows something about Herpes viruses

They are a very common cause of diseases and many of us was exposed to it since the youth. In fact Herpes virus 1 (HSV-1), the most common strain of this virus specie, is the main cause of cold sores and facial fever blisters. But HSV-1 can be the cause of another diseaser disease, genital herpes, that usually is caused by herpes virus-2 (HSV2), another and less common strain of herpes virus. Actually both herpes viral agents can cause oral or genital diseases even though are more frequent t HSV-1 oral infections and HSV-2 genital ones.

It’s interesting to note that are known other 8 strains of Herpes Viruses:

HSV-3, also known as Herpes Zoster, causes chickenpox, HSV-4, Epstein-Barr virus, causes mononucleosis, the “kissing disease”. HSV-5, the cytomegalovirus, is a viral agent that triggers difficult health complications in HIV affected patients. HSV-6 is responsible of Roseola, while HSV-7 and HSV-8 are rarest strains found in some rare health conditions like in Kaposi’s Sarcoma affected patients.

How common is Herpes simplex?

As we said before both HSV-1 and HSV-2 viruses are really common in human epidemiology, so common that World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that almost half human population are infected with HSV-1. An infection that involves 67% of people under the age of 50% or 3,7 billion people. WHO also estimates that HSV-2 has infected 417 million people under the age of 50. Taking into consideration both there’s half billion people under the age of 50 infected with Herpes virus in the world. In Australia it’s estimated tha 80% of adults are infected of HSV-1, while 12,5% of sexually active adults have contracted HSV-2.

Sources of infection are different for the two virus strains:

HSV-1 is mainly transmitted by salival and mouth sores contact and whereas HSV-2 is primarily transmitted through skin contact, tipically duting sexual intercourses. Kiss can be an easy way to pass the virus to other people. The role of education is crucial to prevent the spreading of the infection to young people especially before they become sexually active. To achieve this goal, many governments over the world have developed educational tools and programs to inform children and teenagers about the risks connected with genital herpes and other sexually transmitted diseases (STI). In the state of Victoria, Australia, a government funded program allows general practitioners to be present in secondary schools with the purpose to provide medical advice to young students. It’s also very important for sexual health management and for educational purpose the Australian family planning centers and clinics, where people, especially youngsters can have advice and support, tipically at low prices, on sexual related issues.

HSV viruses are so easy to spred not only because they are highly contagious, but mainly because once contracted you don’t really get rid of them

Herpes virus enters into a dormant state and sometimes it can reactivate, often with no symptoms while maintaining its infectiousness. The use of medicines like, for example, acyclovir based drugs like Zovirax or Valtrex can prevent outbreaks of Herpes virus, lowering the chance to infecting sex partners. But recent studies has shown that even patients treated with high dosage of these anti-herpes drugs can be contagious. A study has shown tha acyclovir treated patients are 50% less likely to infect other people than other herpes affected subjects: that’s a significant reduction but it’s insufficient to rule out contagion. To losen this chance it’s important to use condoms and don’t have sex while in an outbreak of the virus, because risk of transmission is higher from contact with genital blisters. The risk of contracting genital herpes is always higher for a female from a male partner than vice versa. HSV-2 infection is, in fact, more common among women than among men: in Australia prevalence of HSV-2 is 16% in adult women, almost double than prevalence in men adult population at 8%.

Antiviral medications for treatment of genital herpes that are licensed in Australia are currently three:

already mentioned Acyclovir, Valaciclovir and Famciclovir.
Antiviral treatment can be useful to manage the disease, especially for people that have painful outbreaks or feel threatened in their lifestyle by the virus. There are two main approachs for antiviral treatments of genital herpes: episodic therapy and suppressive therapy.

Episodic therapy must be started within the first day of symptom onset and may reduce the duration of the outbreak by one or two days. Suppressive therapy provides for the daily use of antiviral drugs and can significantly reduce the number of outbreaks in a year. The real response to therapy varies from people to people, and for this cause it’s important to decide with the doctor the best strategy based on the needs of the patient.

Anyway it’s important to remember that genital herpes is a common condition and a rational approach to this infection is important to avoid difficulties experimented by patient because of social stygma and shame related to fallacious association with notions of promiscuity and sex behaviours.

Published by Archer Fowler

My special interests: erectile dysfunction, urology, male health, alopecia.

Join the Conversation


  1. Genital herpes is certainly very embarrassing and requires a lot of care, both for yourself and not to pass to other people with whom we relate. I have had experience with a partner who had this problem, and even if the wounds were not visible at all times, it was necessary to be very careful to have sex with this person, so that it was not transmitted to me. Always use medication, use a condom and avoid having sex, even orally, during the periods when the wounds were open, because if it happens it is certain that the disease would be transmitted to you, and it is something that has no cure, is embarrassing and causes very discomfort.

  2. My best friend in college was diagnosed with genital herpes. She was so embarrassed and upset about it. When the symptoms first manifested, she felt like she had the flu. After that, she started having genital lesions that were so painful she couldn’t even walk. She went to the doctor, obtained a diagnosis and now is on medication.

  3. I just got diagnosed with HSV 2 about three months ago now. I find it extremely painful to have sex with anyone, inside it burns and feels like a sharp stabbing sensation. I have been trying several different methods to help prevent outbreaks including but not limited to: reducing fatty acid foods, using water based lubricant, getting plenty of rest and trying to relax and communicate with my partner the whole time we are engaging in sexual activity. I have been dealing with this since early July and still to no avail is it too getting any easier for me or my partners.

  4. I was terrified when I learned I had gotten genital herpes. However, it’s not the end of the world. There are ways to treat it and live a full life, even with genital herpes.

  5. Genital herpes is a viral infection characterised by outbreaks of blisters and sores around your genital area. You can catch it through having sex (usually vaginal or anal intercourse, or oral sex) with someone who is infected with one of the viruses that cause genital herpes.
    Once you are infected with a genital herpes virus, it stays in your body forever, even after the blisters have gone.
    Some people with genital herpes have outbreaks of genital sores that keep coming back, due to the virus becoming active again, while other people have no symptoms at all and don’t even know they have the virus in their body.
    So it’s possible to transmit the virus to sexual partners even if you don’t have symptoms (though this is less likely than when you have active lesions).
    Genital herpes is caused by a virus — either herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) or herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1).
    Once the virus enters the skin on or around your genitals, it travels to cells in the roots of the nerves of your spinal cord, where it remains permanently.
    If you have genital sores, see your doctor, who can work out if you have genital herpes by taking a swab from one of the sores.

  6. This is how I got genital herpes. I dated a really nice girl for a couple of years, the type you’d think you’ll marry and start a family with. Unbeknownst to me, she was cheating on me with this soccer player at my school. A few weeks after we had sex, I started seeing rashes and bumps on my penis. I went to the doctor and he told me that I had genital herpes, and that my sexual partner probably gave it to me. I had never felt so betrayed in my entire life. The person whom I thought would be my “forever” had stolen my trust.

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