Frequently Asked Questions About Herpes

Q: How common is herpes?

A: Most Americans have herpes, either as genital herpes, or as cold sores, the main difference is site of preference and social acceptance. Experts estimate that 60 million Americans have the virus that causes the genital form of herpes. In a recent study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The American Social Health Association, there are more than 15 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections each year. That’s 41,095 people, newly infected, every day!

Up to 80 percent of Americans have the most common form of herpes (HSV-1) at some time. It usually appears as oral herpes and is most often spread without sexual contact.
Q: What are the symptoms of Oral Herpes?

A: “Cold sores” or “fever blisters” usually show up on the lips or inside the mouth. They are common in young children. Brief, direct contact is all that’s needed to pass the virus. Cold sores are annoying but harmless in children and adults. But cold sores are very harmful to a newborn. Oral herpes in adults is usually a “flare-up” of a childhood infection.
Q: What are the symptoms of Genital Herpes?

A: Very often there are none. The most common symptom is a cluster of blistery sores — usually but not always on the vagina, vulva, cervix, penis, buttocks, or anus. Symptoms may last several weeks and go away. They may return in weeks, months, or years.

The first episode of symptoms of a genital herpes infection is called “primary herpes.”

Symptoms may include:

    open sores
    pain in the infected area
    burning feelings if urine flows over sores
    inability to urinate if severe swelling of sores blocks the urethra

Very severe first episodes may have symptoms that include:

    swollen, tender lymph glands in the groin, throat, and under the arms
    general run-down feelings
    achy, flu-like feelings

The symptoms of later episodes are usually less severe than the first.

Many people carry the virus in their bodies but do not have their first episode of symptoms until they are infected another time.

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