The Herpes Simplex Virus
The herpes simplex virus is the known cause for oral and genital herpes. There are two types of the herpes simplex virus, HSV-1 or type 1, which causes oral herpes and HSV-2 or type 2, which causes genital herpes. Herpes is a widespread sexually transmitted disease that affects approximately 45 million people in the United States.
Symptoms and Outbreaks
The symptoms of an outbreak include flu-like symptoms, difficulty in urination, fever, muscle aches and sores around the infected area. The sores can be extremely painful and can last about two to four weeks before they heal. When an outbreak occurs, a person should refrain from all sexual activity because this disease is highly contagious. When there are no signs of an outbreak, a person who has the disease should continually protect him or herself and their partner.
Methods of Protection
There is nothing that can completely protect someone from getting the disease or spreading it, except abstinence. Latex condoms, female condoms and dental dams are designed for protection from the spreading viruses and diseases. However, these only decrease the risk of the transmission of the herpes simplex virus. They do not completely prevent the transmission because there are areas in the genital area that they can not fully cover.
If those areas are still exposed, the risk of transmission is still apparent. It is best to always use a condom while having intercourse (vaginal, anal or oral) no matter if you or your partner are showing signs of an outbreak or not. It is also a good idea to always use condoms because they prevent the spread of other diseases and infection.
HIV and Herpes
Condoms are also the only method to protect a person from HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Having herpes or any other sexually transmitted infection or disease can increase the risk of also contracting HIV/AIDS, but this is the only disease found in correlation with herpes thus far. It is more likely that a person who has herpes will get infected with HIV because when the sores of herpes are present, it is easier for HIV cells to infect those sores. Once infected and an outbreak occurs, both herpes and HIV can worsen because the HIV is able to make more copies of itself and weakens the person's immune system even more. HIV can also make a person's outbreak with herpes last longer than it normally would.
Play It Safe
Using protection is always a good idea when it comes to all forms of sexual activity. Sexually transmitted diseases are highly infectious and are common among people in the United States. Once one disease is contracted, other diseases are more likely to attack with exposure. Increased risks of some cancers are also more likely with sexually transmitted diseases. Although, people cannot completely protect themselves by just using a condom, it strongly decreases the risk one may have. It is best to keep in mind that there is no cure for genital herpes, so the more protection that is used can decrease the risk of contracting the lifelong disease.
Photo Credit: Paul Keller