Monthly Archives: November 2019

Genital Herpes: The virus that millions of people live with

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that is caused by HSV, the herpes simplex virus. There is HSV1, which is commonly found near the mouth and lips, and is what people refer to as cold sores. HSV2 is the virus that occurs in the genital and/or anal areas. It is possible for people to have HSV1 and HSV2 at the same time. In Australia, approximately 1 in 10 people have HSV2. Australian women are more likely to contract HSV2 than men.

HSV2 is transmitted through the skin on the genitals or anus

The virus itself can remain under the skin and dormant for years. When someone has a genital herpes outbreak, blisters are usually visible on the skin. While experts don’t really know for certain what triggers a genital herpes outbreak, some possible factors are menstruation, anxiety, or sexual intercourse. A herpes episode can take place over a 7 to 10 day period and can include symptoms of itching, redness, swelling, blisters, shallow ulcers, and pain. In very rare instances of HSV2, experiencing a flu-like illness is possible. In the most severe genital herpes cases, it can take up to a maximum of three weeks for all symptoms to heal and the blisters to disappear.

While there is no known cure for herpes, antiviral drugs can be taken to alleviate some of the symptoms of the virus. If antiviral drugs are taken toward the beginning of the onset of an outbreak, they will help to lessen the severity and duration of the episode. Antiviral drugs do not completely kill the virus but they do act to decrease the overall amount of HSV2 present, which will lessen the chance of future outbreaks and decrease the chances of passing it on to a partner. Valacyclovir, Acyclovir, and Famciclovir are the most common antiviral medicines prescribed to treat genital herpes.

While they have all proven to be effective, Valacyclovir and Famciclovir are more easily absorbed by the stomach and usually can be taken less frequently than Acyclovir. These medicines are usually taken orally. Other than taking your prescribed antiviral medication, you can manage an outbreak by wearing loose clothing, keeping the area dry, and applying pain relieving gels or creams to the skin. Avoid using soap on any of the affected area and bathe in diluted salt water, especially if lesions are present.

Genital herpes is highly transmittable through sexual intercourse

It is best to refrain from all sexual activity during and for a week after a genital herpes flare. Even if HPV2 is latent and there are no herpes symptoms present, it is still possible to transmit the disease to a sexual partner. Even though condoms cannot offer complete protection, it is best to wear them during intercourse, if you have the HPV2 virus, even if you have no symptoms at the time. Also, avoid kissing and oral sex if any blisters are present in the genital, anal, or mouth areas. Additionally, wear a dental dam if the mouth has any contact with the vulva or anus. For someone who tests positive for HPV2, it is extremely important to take good care of yourself by consuming a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, minimizing stress, and practicing good hygiene.

Some people with HPV2 may never express any physical symptoms of the virus, while others may only have one symptomatic outbreak. A minority of those with genital herpes will experience recurrent episodes and require consistent and ongoing treatment.

For more information on the signs and symptoms of genital herpes, treatment recommendations, and on sexually transmitted diseases and safe sex in general, refer to the Netherlands Health Portal:

If you are an Australian resident and suspect you may have herpes, see your doctor immediately

The test for HPV2 in Australia is typically done by a swab of one of the genital lesions. The Australian government has a notifiable diseases policy where individuals are expected to disclose if they have genital herpes or any type of sexually transmitted disease or infection. According to the recently passed Section 79 of Australian’s Public Health Act, any person who has an STD, including genital herpes, must take precautions against spreading it to others. The penalty imposed by the Australian government of violating this act is 6 months in prison or 100 penalty units.