What is Herpes?
Herpes, a common sexually transmitted disease, is caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). Herpes sores and lesions can appear in various parts of the body, most commonly around the genitals or mouth. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 776,000 people in the United States get infected with herpes annually.
HSV-1, usually known as oral herpes, can cause cold sores and fever blisters around the mouth and on the face. HSV-1 is highly prevalent in childhood and is easily transmitted through social contact like a mere kiss by an infected adult. HSV-2, which causes genital herpes, is typically acquired during adulthood. It causes sores around the vagina, cervix, penis and surrounding skin. Herpes is usually transmitted through skin-to-skin contact or unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex. The Herpes Simplex Virus enters the body through mucous membranes and breaks in the skin.
Anyone can get infected with herpes regardless of their age. While it is not curable, the infection is not life threatening in adults. The infection is asymptomatic and most infected people do not display any symptoms; therefore, remain unaware of the disease. However, with proper testing and diagnosis, it can be treated and managed with antiviral medications that reduce outbreaks and decrease the risk of spreading the infection to others. In some cases, herpes may evolve into severe and life-threatening conditions such as meningitis.
Herpes increases the chances of contracting other sexually transmitted infections such as HIV. It is important that one gets tested for prompt diagnosis and treatment.