Up to 80% of people who have genital herpes are not aware of it. Symptoms are often mistaken for something else or there may be no symptoms at all.
Genital herpes is a common infection of the skin caused by the herpes simplex virus. It affects up to 1 in 8 Australians.
The virus mainly infects the genital region, but it can occur anywhere on the skin below the waist. The well-known symptoms of herpes are painful blisters or sores lasting about a week. However, it can also cause redness, rashes, split skin, pain, burning or itch. Many people with these symptoms do not realise they have herpes.
Genital herpes is generally caught during sexual activity, especially during an active infection. However up to 70% of cases are contracted when no symptoms are present. For most people, the first episode is the worst. Many people then get further attacks several times a year. Outbreaks become milder and less frequent over time and eventually seem to disappear altogether.
There is no cure for herpes, however effective anti-viral treatment is available on script from your doctor. Medication can be taken when symptoms develop to reduce the severity and duration of an outbreak (episodic therapy). If attacks are frequent or severe, medication can be used every day for prolonged periods to prevent further episodes (suppressive therapy). The drugs are well tolerated with few side effects.
How to help protect your partner
- Use condoms. They give partial protection.
- Avoid sex when symptoms are present.
- Medication taken by the infected partner has been shown to reduce the risk of spread. Speak to your doctor about this.
For further information, ask your GP for 'The Facts Pack' information kit or go to http://www.ahmf.com.au/ or http://www.thefacts.com.au/.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.