Think you have herpes? Here’s what to do

Careful: Just because you don't see any herpes doesn't mean the person's clean. Credit: Wavebreak Media
Careful: Just because you don’t see any cold sores doesn’t mean the person’s clean.
Credit: Wavebreak Media

I am freaking out that I might have been exposed to herpes! What can I do?

Herpes is a common sexually transmitted viral infection that may cause somewhat painful genital blisters. The Centers for Disease Control’s most recent available statistics (2008) indicate that there are more than 24 million Americans with a genital herpes infection, and more than 760,000 new infections every year.

There are two viruses that cause the infection: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-2 has been the predominant source of genital herpes, while HSV-1 causes oral cold sores and canker sores of the lips and mouth. But with changing intimacy practices, both viruses commonly cause genital herpes. Sex and oral sex can spread HSV-1 and HSV-2, as can kissing or even sharing a drinking glass with someone who has active cold sores.

The scary thing about genital and oral herpes is that the virus can be spread even when an infected person lacks visible sores. While symptoms of an initial infection classically include painful blisters on the genitals, lips or in the mouth, herpes infections may exhibit only mild irritation, tingling or itching, or be mistaken for another skin condition. Once exposed, it may take three to five days for a new infection to develop and blisters, called vesicles, to occur. The vesicles break after a day or two, leaving painful ulcers that can take two to three weeks to heal completely.

Subsequent outbreaks are often less severe, and may occur anywhere from every few months, to rarely, to never. There may be warning signs of a reoccurrence in the days preceding the onset of blisters, such as local pain or tingling, fever or general malaise. While the infection remains in the body forever, the immune system keeps it dormant and flare-ups usually decrease over time.

Your doctor can confirm whether or not you have herpes by doing a blood test, and with DNA typing or viral cultures from any lesions when present. Confirmation from a lab can sometimes be challenging as the presence of biological substances that identify the virus can vary with the timing of the exam and duration of symptoms, as well as in differentiating an old vs. new infection.

The treatment of primary HSV outbreaks, as well as reoccurrences, is with various prescription antiviral medications including valacyclovir and acyclovir. Use of latex condoms, abstinence and maintaining a monogamous sexual relationship with a partner known to be HSV-free are the most reliable ways to avoid infection.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 22,…

The Percy Sutton Harlem 5K and NYC Family Health Walk-a-thon and Pakistan Day Parade and Fair will cause traffic delays and street closures in New York City this weekend. Plan…

International

U.N. nuclear inquiry on Iran seen making slow…

The U.N. nuclear watchdog appears to have made only limited progress so far in getting Iran to answer questions about its suspected atomic bomb research, diplomatic sources said on Friday,…

National

Violence-weary Missouri town sees second night of calm

By Nick Carey and Carey GillamFERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - The violence-weary town of Ferguson, Missouri, saw a second straight evening of relative calm on Thursday…

National

Journalist James Foley's parents, after call with pope,…

The parents of James Foley, the American journalist killed by Islamic State militants in Iraq, on Friday called for prayer and support to free the remaining captives held by Islamic…

Television

Recap: 'The Knick,' Season 1, Episode 3, 'The…

The third episode of Steven Soderbergh's "The Knick" finds Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) meeting an old flame and other characters embracing self-destruction.

Music

Webcast: Watch Polyphonic Spree live on Sunday Aug.…

Polyphonic Spree singer Tim DeLaughter sits with Metro Music Editor Pat Healy for a chat and then the big band performs live. It begins on Sunday at 9:30 pm

Movies

Matthew Weiner on directing 'Are You Here' and…

"Mad Men" creator Matthew Weiner discusses his movie "Are You Here," his history writing comedy and the tiny movie he directed in 1996 you can't see.

Movies

Michael Chiklis on his football past and 'When…

Michael Chiklis remembers playing football in high school and how that prepped him to play a coach in "When the Game Stands Tall."

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…