Genital Herpes Transmission

genital herpes transmission

Most people who have contracted genital herpes type 2 (HSV-2) do not know they have it. While some have an outbreak within the first two weeks of contracting the virus, most  never have outbreaks or have very mild symptoms that can go unnoticed. Contraction of the genital herpes virus can still occur even if your partner does not have visible sores or lesions.

Symptomatic Recurrences

Most people diagnosed with a first episode of genital herpes can expect to have four to five outbreaks (called symptomatic recurrences) within a year. Over time these recurrences usually decrease in frequency. There is no cure for this recurrent (returning) infection, which may cause embarrassment and emotional distress.

Having  genital herpes does not preclude an individual from having a normal relationship. If the individual or their partner is infected with HSV type 2, steps can be taken to manage the transmission of  the herpes virus.

Genital Herpes Transmission Prevention

Measures for preventing genital herpes are the same as those for preventing other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). HSV-2 is highly contagious while lesions are present.

The best way to prevent infection is to abstain from sexual activity or to limit sexual contact to only one person who is infection-free. Individuals should use, or have their partner use, a latex condom during each sexual contact, limit the number of sex partners, avoid any contact with a partner who has sores until the sores are completely healed, or use a male or female condom during anal, oral, or vaginal sex (however, genital herpes transmission can still occur if the condom does not cover the sores), avoid having sex just before or during an outbreak since the risk for transmission is highest at that time, and ask the sexual partner if they have ever had a herpes outbreak or been exposed to the herpes virus.

Oral to Genital Transmission Risk

Occasionally, oral-genital contact can transmit oral herpes to the genitals (and vice versa). Individuals with active herpes lesions on or around their mouths or on their genitals should only engage in oral sex if they use a condom or place a small piece of latex, called a dental dam, over the vagina or anus.

Also, getting tested for herpes-simplex viruses is important if the individual is sexually active outside of a monogamous relationship.


Genital Herpes Transmission References

American Academy of Family Physicians. http://search.aafp.org. Accessed April 4, 2009.
American Social Health Association. www.ashastd.org. Accessed April 4, 2009.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. www.cdc.gov. Accessed April 4, 2009.
Femiano F, Gombos F, Scully C. Recurrent herpes labialis: a pilot study of the efficacy of zinc therapy. J Oral Pathol Med. 2005;34(7):423-5.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. www3.niaid.nih.gov. Accessed April 4, 2009.
Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. www.naturalstandard.com. Copyright © 2009. Accessed April 4, 2009.
Singh BB, Udani J, Vinjamury SP, et al. Safety and effectiveness of an L-lysine, zinc, and herbal-based product on the treatment of facial and circumoral herpes. Altern Med Rev. 2005;10(2):123-7.
Sun Y, Yang J. Experimental study of the effect of Astragalus membranaceus against herpes simplex virus type 1. Di Yi Jun Yi Da Xue Xue Bao. 2004;24(1):57-8.
Thomas SL, Wheeler JG, Hall AJ. Micronutrient intake and the risk of herpes zoster: a case-control study. Int J Epidemiol. 2006;35(2):307-14.
World Health Organization. www.who.int. Accessed April 4, 2009.
VZV Research Foundation. www.vzvfoundation.org. Accessed April 4, 2009.