Herpes is a virus that can affect the mouth or genitals, and is caused by HSV. Although it is not curable, it can be managed with medications and daily suppressive therapy. There are treatments available that can reduce symptoms and shorten outbreaks, but it is a lifelong infection. It is important to talk to a healthcare provider about your concerns and treatment options.
Pregnant women who have been diagnosed with HSV-2 should start taking a daily antiviral at 36 weeks of pregnancy to avoid outbreaks during childbirth. If you are starting a new relationship and you know that you have a herpes simplex infection, it is important to let your partner know before having sex. A large study showed that if one partner has herpes and the other is not infected, treating the infected partner with suppressive therapy can prevent the transmission of symptomatic herpes in more than 90% of cases. Herpes simplex may be more dangerous for young babies because they don't have a fully developed immune system.
If you have an active infection at the time of delivery, you can transmit the virus to your baby. Neonatal herpes is when a pregnant person transmits the infection to the fetus before, during, or immediately after delivery. If you are infected with HSV-1, commonly known as oral herpes, you may feel tingling or burning around your mouth in the days before a cold sore appears. The natural history of varicella zoster infection is similar to genital herpes infection, since VZV is also latent in sensory nerve roots.
Medications have come a long way in helping to suppress herpes and it is possible that it can be cured in the future. Taking antiviral medications can help you reduce the risk of transmitting genital herpes to your sexual partners. People who have open sores due to genital herpes are twice as likely to get HIV compared to people without herpes. However, there is currently no vaccine that can help prevent the spread of herpes, so it is important to use appropriate protection and precautions when having sex with other people.
Herpes can hide in nerve cells for a long time before becoming active, making it difficult to find a cure.