STI fact sheet: Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is an STI caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 or 2 (HSV-1 or HSV 2). Most infected people experience either no symptoms or exhibit very mild symptoms that are mistaken for skin conditions or go unnoticed. When the symptoms occur, they occur like blisters on or around the genitals, mouth or rectum.  They break and leave painful sores that take a couple of weeks to heal.

The first time infected people experience fevers, body aches and swollen glands. Repeat outbreaks are common especially in the first year of infection. After the first outbreak, the subsequent ones are less severe and shorter. The infection can stay in the body indefinitely as the outbreaks decrease. Like all STIs, it is transmitted through sexual contact   i.e. oral, vaginal, and anal.

Transmission can occur from an infected person who does not have knowledge of infection or visible sores. HSV-1 can cause "fever blisters" causing sores on the mouth and lips and can therefore be transmitted through mouth to mouth contact, mouth to genital contact, and genital to genital contact.

Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores in adults and severe to those who have suppressed immune systems. If a person touches fluid from the sores and touches another part of their body they transfer it to that part of the body. This can be problematic when it affects the eyes or other sensitive areas. Herpes transmission can be prevented through the use of condoms and maintaining one sexual partner.