If a way to slow down genital herpes transmission is not found, it is estimated that 49% of women and 39% of men will have genital herpes in the United States within 15 years. This is a staggering number! The first step to reduce this number is to gather as much information as possible and then take the necessary actions to reduce or eliminate the herpes simplex virus from being transmitted altogether.
The herpes virus is not transmitted through casual contact. Genital herpes is spread through oral, vaginal or anal intercourse. The herpes virus is very fragile and will die quickly outside of the body. It is not spread through public bathrooms, shaking hands, hugs, trying on underwear in a dressing room, hot tubs, swimming pools, or sharing a bar of soap.
Unlike the common cold or flu where transmission is through the air by small droplets of human body liquid, transmitting herpes happens when an infected person comes into direct physical contact with a non-infected person.
What I mean by this is that the virus can only be spread when direct contact is made at the location of an infection to the location of the area of contact.
An example of this would be, if you have genital herpes on your penis then have sex with someone, you could transmit the virus to the part of your partner’s genital area that came into direct contact with your penis. Another example of a very common method of transmission is if you have a cold sore (HSV-1) and kiss someone on his or her mouth, then you can transmit the virus to his or her lips.
Anal intercourse can also pass the herpes virus to the rectal area, though a lot of people who get genital herpes outbreaks around the rectum and the buttocks have never had anal sex. This happens because the virus moves along a different nerve paths to get to the surface of the skin rather than along the nerve paths that goes to the genitals.
In the United States 56% of people over the age of 14 have the herpes simplex type 1 virus (HSV-1). Do you think that having cold sores is not related to genital herpes? Think again!
HSV-1 cause genital herpes can too and is most commonly transmitted during oral sex. Studies have shown that HSV-1 is responsible for almost a third of new genital herpes cases. Wow! Another staggering number!
In fact, this is the most common way for college-age people to get genital herpes. Cold sores have been around for a very long time, and some people find it hard to believe that they can be the cause of genital herpes infections.
One of the most difficult things to learn about the herpes virus is that there is a chance that it can be transmitted when there are no visible blisters or open sores. Women can have the herpes virus on their cervix and men can have the virus inside of the urethra with no visible external blisters or sores.
Sometimes people infected with the virus can spread it between outbreaks, when no sores or symptoms of the virus are present. This happens in both men and women when they have unnoticeable microscopic breaks in the genital skin.
This process is called "Asymptomatic viral shedding."
The transmission of the herpes virus is a fear that we all have to live with on a daily basis. Regularly using condoms, taking anti-viral medication on a daily basis and not having sex during a known herpes outbreak are very important steps that we can take to reduce transmission and protect our sexual partners.
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