Genital herpes is a lifelong infection, and there is no cure for it. However, there are treatments that can reduce the symptoms and infectiousness of the disease. Antiviral medications can be taken daily to prevent or shorten outbreaks, and they can also reduce the chances of transmitting the virus to a sexual partner. In most cases, herpes outbreaks decrease and weaken over the course of a few years, usually ending in five or six years.
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is responsible for causing herpes, and it can affect the mouth or genitals. It is possible for herpes to spread to other parts of the body, such as the eyes or other parts of the skin. Unfortunately, there is currently no vaccine that can help prevent the spread of herpes, so it is important to use appropriate protection and precautions when engaging in sexual activity with other people. If you have an active infection at the time of delivery, you can transmit the herpes virus to your baby.
It is estimated that approximately 40 to 50 million adults in the United States have genital herpes. Experts suggest that even if antiviral drugs destroy the active parts of the infection, only a small amount of the virus is needed to hide in nerve cells and remain inactive so that the herpes virus continues to persist in the body. This means that many new herpes infections occur by couples who transmit the virus asymptomatically, so condoms are strongly recommended. For example, if someone has never had herpes but then has oral and genital sex with an infected partner, they can get the infection on both sites.
Genital herpes cannot be transmitted to another part of the body, such as the arm, leg, or hand, after the first infection. If you know you have genital herpes before you become pregnant, your doctor will monitor your condition throughout your pregnancy. Although several clinical trials have tested vaccines against genital herpes, there is currently no vaccine available to prevent infection. When a person experiences a prodrome and suspects that a recurrence will occur, they begin taking antiherpetic medications that reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of the outbreak. If you have herpes, it is important to get tested for HIV (AIDS) and other STIs (such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia). This will help ensure that you are taking all necessary precautions to protect yourself and your sexual partners from any potential health risks.