What is herpes?
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a virus that mostly affects the mouth, genitals or anus areas. It is very contagious and causes symptoms such as outbreaks of painful sores, blisters and itchy rashes. There are 2 types of herpes namely HSV 1, which affects the mouth area, and HSV 2 which affects the genitals.
The symptoms are often mild, and although some people don’t have any symptoms, the virus can still be passed on even if there is no outbreak.
It is estimated that approximately 4 billion people worldwide are infected by the most common type – HSV 1. Once the virus is in your body, it never leaves your system. When your immune system is down, the symptoms tend to break out in the form of sores and blisters.
Is herpes always contagious?
There is an idea some people have that if there are no symptoms, herpes is not contagious. There have been several rude awakenings between sexual partners, as herpes is always potentially contagious.
Research has shown that the herpes virus is most contagious just before an outbreak of blisters, as well as during and after blisters appear. A herpes outbreak can appear as a rash, bumps or sores around the genitals, or the mouth, which may later develop into blisters.
If you happen to notice something like that on yourself or a partner, don’t take any chances! Avoid sexual contact, if genital sores are present, and even kissing if the sores are around the mouth.
Herpes spreads is through skin contact and saliva, so you will not t get herpes from toilet seats, hot tubs, towels or swimming pools.
Just keep your distance from your partner until the outbreak has subsided, and then take some necessary precautions, like using a condom, which will lower your risk of spreading or catching the virus.
If there are no symptoms, how will I know whether I am infected?
If you have both had several sexual partners, yet do not have any symptoms, you could still have the virus, which would still be contagious. Visit the doctor if you are unsure.
The good news is that symptom-free herpes is only contagious 10% of the time, so you could take a chance and have sex, or take precautions to prevent infection.
So if I AM infected, when will my herpes virus not be contagious?
Although the herpes virus stays with you for life, there are some encouraging answers to this question. If your immune system is operating well, the virus HSV 1 and HSV2, is usually dormant for up to 90% of the time.
To help prevent outbreaks and infections, especially if you have genital herpes, always use a condom, even after the last sore or blister has healed.
- At the first sign of an outbreak, refrain from all sexual contact, even if using a condom.
- If you have HSV 1 and sores around the mouth – don’t kiss anyone. And don’t allow anyone to kiss you who has fever blisters or sores in the mouth area.
- Visit your medical practitioner and ask for some suppressive therapy. The doctor will probably recommend something similar to Valtrex, a virus suppressing drug, which you will have to take on a daily basis, to keep the virus as dormant as possible.
Studies have shown that by implementing and sticking to recommended measures, it is possible to cut down your risk of being contagious by up to 50%.
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