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Disease Control

Genital Herpes Communicable Disease Facts

Genital Herpes

One in five adult Americans have genital herpes, but at least 80 percent of those with herpes are unaware they have it. It is estimated that more than 45 million Americans are infected with the virus, and an estimated 200,000 - 500,000 people acquire new infections every year.

What is Herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of herpes simplex viruses: Simplex I and Simplex II. Simplex I usually affects the mouth (cold sores). Simplex II usually affects the genitals. Both types can be transmitted sexually.

How is herpes spread?

Herpes viruses are spread by contact between the infected part of the body and an uninfected part of the body. This means that an active sore is on the mouth, it can then be transmitted to the genitals if oral sex is performed. It can be spread by vaginal, anal, or oral sex, and by general touching or kissing. Herpes can also be spread while no sores are visible.

What are symptoms of herpes?

  • Rash or blisters that occur in small clusters on the vagina, cervix, penis, buttocks, anus or on the mouth
  • Itching
  • Burning while urinating
  • Fever
  • Swollen glands
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue

Often, these symptoms recur in infected persons. How often and how long symptoms recur vary widely.

How is herpes diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider can obtain a culture test from a suspicious sore. A new blood test is also available to determine if your body is infected with the herpes virus. *Note: St. Louis County Health clinics do not offer the blood test for herpes at this time.

Is herpes curable/treatable?

Herpes is not curable at this time. There are antiviral drugs available to help treat outbreaks and symptoms, but they do not cure the virus. They help reduce infectious periods, but they do not completely prevent infecting other people.

Can you have other sexually transmitted diseases at the same time?

Yes. You can have other sexually transmitted diseases at the same time that you are infected with the herpes virus.

How serious is herpes?

Herpes is a serious infection due to the fact that there is not presently a cure. Having an open sore also allows other infections to enter the body more easily, especially the HIV virus.

Where can I learn more information about herpes?

You can click on our Resource link for further information. The following resources can be contacted for further information relating to trichomoniasis. National STD and AIDS hotlines at 1-800-342-2437 or 1-800-227-8922. These hotlines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more information you may use the following links: