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Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), Genital

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are 2 major strains of this virus: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simple virus type 2 (HSV-2). In general, genital herpes is caused by HSV-2, and "fever blisters," or herpes on the face or lips, is caused by HSV-1.HSV-2 can cause small, open, tender sores to develop on the genitals or in the buttocks. Though the virus is very contagious to others, only 20% of people who are infected will develop sores. The sores are usually described as an "outbreak," with the first outbreak occurring within weeks of exposure to the virus and subsequent outbreaks over a person's lifetime usually occurring less and less frequently. The sores themselves often crop up in the same place on the body. The sores are very contagious and are spread by skin-to-skin contact. Most people (up to 80%) never have an outbreak of sores, but they are still contagious and may spread the disease to others.There is no cure for genital HSV. The only way to protect yourself is to know your sexual partners and to wear condoms. However, many people are unaware that they are infected with HSV. A doctor can check for HSV infection by doing a test on an open sore, or if there is no sore, by ordering a test on the blood. This is not a standard STD test, so make sure to ask your doctor if you have concerns. A pregnant woman with genital HSV can transmit the disease to her baby during delivery, which can be fatal for the baby. Make sure to discuss your sexual history with your doctor if you are pregnant. Your doctor can also help provide treatments to lessen the severity of outbreaks and may help you identify triggers (such as stress or illness) that may bring on outbreaks.

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