What is it?

Herpes is an infection caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). There are two types of Herpes Simplex Virus, Herpes Simplex Virus – One (HSV-1) which can cause cold sores, and Herpes Simplex Virus – Two (HSV-2) also known as Genital Herpes. Both types can infect the genital areas.

How do you get it?

Genital Herpes is spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected area, typically during vaginal or oral sex. Herpes Simplex Virus – One (HSV-1) can also be transmitted through kissing. When transmitted through oral sex, a Herpes infection can be passed from mouth to genitals, or from genitals to mouth. It is not spread through toilet seats, swimming pools, hot tubs or bath tubs. In some cases a Herpes infection can be spread to a baby when giving birth.

How can you tell if you have it?

A large number of people infected with Herpes will not have symptoms and therefore may not know they have it. If you have Herpes symptoms you will most likely feel itching or tingling on your skin and then develop painful blisters that turn into sores. It will heal by itself. When you first have an outbreak of Herpes, you may also feel like you have the flu and symptoms may last several weeks.

Can it keep coming back?

Yes, the first outbreak of Herpes is usually the worst. You may get more than one outbreak. These are called recurrences and they tend to be milder than the first outbreak.

How do you get tested?

A doctor or nurse checks your sores and may take a swab from your sores. The doctor may order a blood test to help in the diagnosis of Herpes.

How is it treated?

Herpes cannot be cured but it can be managed. There are medications that may help to prevent outbreaks or reduce the length of time that an outbreak lasts. The doctor may also prescribe a medication for pain if your outbreaks are severe.

What can you do if you have a Herpes outbreak?

  • Keep the area clean and be sure to wash your hands with soap and water if you touch an infected area
  • Wear cotton underwear
  • Wear loose clothing
  • If it hurts when you urinate, sit in a tub of warm water to urinate or pour warm water over the area while you are urinating
  • Avoid “wiping” the area. Pat it dry to avoid spreading the infection.

How can you prevent passing on the virus?

  • If you feel a burning or tingling sensation but have no sores, do not have sex. This is a sign that you may be developing an outbreak and even without sores, you can pass on the virus.
  • Do not perform oral sex when you have a cold sore.
  • You should not have sex if you have an outbreak of Genital Herpes. Wait until the sores are completely healed.
  • Remember, you can pass on the Herpes virus even when you don’t have sores.

Source: Health Canada

Where can I get help?

Visit one of our Sexual Health Clinics or to speak confidentially with a Public Health Nurse call 519-271-7600 or toll-free at 1-877-271-7348 extension 779.