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Genital herpes: The silent STI

Published:Monday | June 24, 2019 | 12:21 AMJessica Harrison - Gleaner Writer

Contrary to popular belief, genital herpes is a very common infection. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and manifests itself in painful blisters on the genitals and other surrounding areas. There are two types of herpes simplex virus (HSV), Type 1 and Type 2. Both types are highly contagious and can be passed easily from one person to another by direct contact. In this article, we will focus on Type 2, the sexually transmitted infection. The virus can be spread through having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has been exposed. According to Dr Ivan Rawl Williams, genital herpes doesn’t always cause symptoms and one may not know that they have been exposed unless they pass it to someone else or happen to have been tested.


The first appearance of symptoms are called an outbreak.

“Symptoms tend to manifest anywhere between two days and two weeks after unprotected sex with an infected person, and they can be mistaken for general flu-like symptoms such as body aches and fever,” he said.

Other symptoms include: random scabs on the skin, painful blisters, itchy genitals and swollen lymph nodes in the groin area.

Is there a cure?

Genital herpes cannot be cured, but not to worry, it can be treated to minimise outbreaks using antiviral medicines such as Zovirax, Famvir, and Valtrex. However, Dr Williams said that one should avoid all forms of sexual contact until the symptoms have cleared, and when they have, take precaution by using a condom to prevent the spread of the virus. “Try as best as possible to keep your genital area clean and dry during an outbreak for pain and itch relief. A covered ice pack a few times per day should also help.”

What if you avoid treatment?

Genital herpes can cause very painful genital sores and it would be in your best interest to get yourself treated. If you do not get treated, you run the risk of the sores spreading to other parts of the body such as the eyes, face, and arms.

If you think you may be exposed to genital herpes, talk to your doctor and get tested. When you know for sure, be open with your sexual partner(s) and advise them to also get tested.