Genital Herpes; Prevention

Genital Herpes; Prevention

Any type of unprotected vaginal, anal or oral-genital sex can transmit herpes. Until a vaccine is developed or research proves that antiviral drugs can stop transmission, the only effective means of preventing herpes is abstinence or consistent and correct condom use. However, even condoms are not risk-free as lesions can occur outside of the area protected by condoms.

The risk of transmission is greatest when an outbreak occurs. Also keep in mind that the possibility of spreading the virus to another person is greatest during the first six months after primary infection. As a rule, experts say it is best to abstain from sex when symptoms are present and to use condoms between outbreaks. Since oral herpes can be passed to the genitals from oral contact, it is prudent to abstain from oral sex if a cold sore is present.

Couples in long-term monogamous relationships in which one partner is infected must weigh the risk of infection against the inconvenience of always having protected sex. Most infections take place early in a relationship and research indicates that a person may become less infectious over time.

Although no barrier methods for use during oral sex have been evaluated as effective or approved by the FDA, women can use dental dams, or plastic wrap to help protect their partners from contact with body fluids during oral sex. Because transmission can occur even when no lesions are present, always place a latex barrier between you and your partner’s genitals and anus. Again, couples should abstain from sex during outbreaks, until the skin is fully healed. Lesbians or bisexual women should be aware that the herpes virus can be transmitted when a lesion from one woman comes into contact with the oral mucosa or the genital mucosa of her female partner.

If you experience an outbreak, whether primary or recurrent, you need to follow a few simple steps to improve healing and avoid spreading the infection to other parts of your body or to other people:

* Keep the infected area clean and dry to prevent secondary infections from developing.

* Avoid touching sores and wash hands after contact with sores.

* Avoid sexual contact until sores are completely healed (i.e., scabs have fallen off and new skin has formed over the site of the lesions).

People with early signs of a herpes outbreak or with visible sores should not have sex from the development of the first symptom until the sores have healed completely.

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“Fact Sheet: Genital Herpes.” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health. September 2003. Accessed September 11, 2004.

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American Social Health Association. Accessed September 11, 2004.

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Corey L, Wald A, Patel R, Sacks SL, Tyring SK, Warren T, Douglas JM Jr, Paavonen J, Morrow RA, Beutner KR, Stratchounsky LS, Mertz G, Keene ON, Watson HA, Tait D, Vargas-Cortes M; Valacyclovir HSV Transmission Study Group. Once-daily valacyclovir to reduce the risk of transmission of genital herpes. N Engl J Med. 2004 Jan 1;350(1):11-20.

Editorial Staff of the National Women’s Health Resource Center 2002/03/01 2005/03/16 Genital herpes. Genital herpes is a contagious infection caused by a virus known as herpes simplex virus (HSV). One in four women have this viral infection and while there is still no known cure, genital herpes does respond well to treatment. Acyclovir,Asymptomatic,Herpes,Lesion,Outbreak,Sexually transmitted disease,Shedding,STD

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