A viral STD that causes erupitons of small, and usually painful, blisters on the genitals. Genital herpes is herpes simplex 2, herpes simplex 1 is the virus responsible for the common cold sore. 5-10% of the cases of herpes simplex 2 are caused by herpes simplex 1. So, if you have 1 don't perform oral sex and if your partner has it don't let them perform it on you. Additionally, herpes simplex 1 can be transmitted through oral secretions during kissing. So, pecks only folks. Eighty percent of the adult population that has simplex 1 aquired it in a non-sexual manner.

People with no prior contact to it will experience systemic (whole body) and local symptoms and signs. Systemic symptoms include fever, malaise, general achiness, and decreased appetite. Common infection sites for men include shaft and head of the penis, scrotum, inner thighs, and anus; for women the sites are the labia, vagina, cervix, anus, and inner thighs. Both sexes can get it in the mouth.

Before the blisters appear infected people can experience increased skin sensitivity, tingling, burning, and pain, before multiple small blisters (vesicles) filled with a clear straw-colored fluid appear. The blisters then break open leaving shallow painful ulcers which eventually crust over and heal in one to two weeks. Women may experience vaginal discharge, and painful urination. Men may get dysuria if the sore is near the opening of the urethra (meatus)

You immune system is unable to fight this virus off because it hides within nerve cells where the antibodies can't get to it. There it can remain dormant for an extended period of time before becoming active again. Just because you have no symptoms doesn't mean it's gone away. It NEVER goes away. There is NO CURE. The virus can also be transmitted in the absence of clinical disease so that someone without obvious herpes can still transmit it.

It has been implicated in causing cervical cancer especially when in combination with the Human papilloma virus (HPV, the virus responsible for genital warts or condyloma). Pregnant women with simplex 1 or 2 in the birth canal or on the genitalia can pass it to their child during birth. Doing so can leat to herpetic meningitis, herpetic virema, chronic skin infections and death.

Avoid direct contact with lesions, avoid sexual contact when lesions are present, use a condom. Pregnant women should have weekly viral cultures of the cervix and external genitalia as the date of birth approaches. A cesarean delivery is recommended to prevent transmission.


  • itching, burning, tingling
  • painful fluid filled blisters in the genetal or rectal areas. Blisters can merge to form really big blisters and the crust that forms on them when they start to heal is yellowish.
  • mild fever
  • groin lumps (inguinal lymphadenopathy)
  • pain when urinating
  • urinary hesitation
  • increase in urinary frequency and/or urgency increased sometimes to the point of incontinence
  • intercourse hurts
  • genital sores


  • viral culture of lesion for herpes simplex virus.
  • Tzanck test of skin leison (this is rarely done).

THERE IS NO CURE but some drugs can relieve the symptoms and prevent outbreaks.

Please read the Everything2 medical disclaimer before taking any action based on this or any other node with medical information.

Here are some other important things to know about herpes that most people don't know:
  • It is possible to transmit herpes even when no sores are present. Recent research has shown this to be the case. So, you should ALWAYS use condoms.
  • There is a blood test that can be used to see if you have the antibodies to both types of herpes in your blood. Those are usually present if you've been exposed to the virus. It is called the Western Blot, and many doctors don't know about it.
  • Some of the drugs that are used to supress outbreaks are very effective. Others are not. YMMV. Some of those drugs are Zovirax (Acyclovir), Valtrex (Valacyclovir), and Famvir (Famciclovir).
  • Some people believe that increasing your intake of certain vitamins and minerals can help reduce the chances of outbreaks. The ones most recommended are L-Lysine and Zinc.

Some excellent resources on the web for herpes information, and where I got this information from:

http://depts.washington.edu/herpes/ - University of Washington Herpes Research Center (probably the best in the country for research about herpes)
http://www.racoon.com/herpes/ - The Original Herpes Home Page (very useful bulletin boards and community support)

There is some good information in the herpes node as well.

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