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Genital Herpes

What is genital herpes?
Where is genital herpes found?
What are the symptoms of genital herpes?
How is genital herpes spread?
How can I keep from getting genital herpes?
If I’ve been exposed to genital herpes, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
What treatments are available for genital herpes? How serious is the disease?
How many cases of genital herpes have been reported in Kentucky?
Where can I get more information on genital herpes?

What is genital herpes?
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that is caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). The majority of cases of genital herpes is caused by HSV-2.

Genital herpes affects the skin and mucous membranes of the genitals. Most people infected with genital herpes have no signs or symptoms, but those who do suffer from symptoms can expect routine outbreaks.

Where is genital herpes found?
Genital herpes is found worldwide and is common throughout the United States, where around one in six people aged 14 to 49 years are believed to be infected.

What are the symptoms of genital herpes?
If an outbreak occurs within the first two weeks of exposure, the symptoms can be serious.

The full body symptoms during an outbreak of genital herpes include: decreased appetite; fever; general feeling of discomfort; and muscle aches in the lower back, thighs, buttocks or knees.

Small, painful blisters filled with clear or straw-colored fluid can appear in various areas of the body, mainly near the reproductive organs.

Before blisters appear, an infected person might feel the skin tingling, burning, itching, or have pain at the site where a blister may erupt. After a blister breaks, it leaves a shallow ulcer that is very painful, but crusts over and slowly heals over seven to 14 days, or longer.

Painful urination and enlarged, tender lymph nodes in the groin are other possible symptoms of genital herpes. Women may also have vaginal discharge and, rarely, may be unable to empty their bladders.

How is genital herpes spread?
Genital herpes is spread through contact with an infected person. A person can spread genital herpes even when no sores or blisters are visible.

How can I keep from getting genital herpes?

If I’ve been exposed to genital herpes, how long will it take for symptoms to develop?
The initial symptoms of genital herpes can occur within two weeks of exposure. After the first outbreak, a second outbreak may occur weeks or months later. The second outbreak is generally less severe and shorter than the first. Over time, subsequent outbreaks usually occur with less frequency.

What treatments are available for genital herpes? How serious is the disease?
There is no cure for herpes, but there are treatments available that can lessen the duration and severity of outbreaks.

How many cases of genital herpes have been reported in Kentucky?
Providers are not required to report cases of herpes to the Health Department; therefore, numbers are not available.

Where can I get more information on genital herpes?
For more information online, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or you can call the Health Department's county health centers.

Sources: Northern Kentucky Health Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention