Herpes Fact Sheet

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Herpes Fact Sheet

The herpes simplex virus (HSV) causes herpes.There are two types, HSV type 1 and HSV type 2. HSV type 2 (genital herpes) usually causes sores and blisters in the genital area. HSV type 1 (oral herpes) usually causes infections on the lips or mouth (cold sores or fever blisters). However, virus from the mouth can infect the genitals and vice versa. The virus can also infect other parts of the body, though this happens much less often. Both viruses can stay inside nerve cells and cause symptoms that occur again and again.

Fifty to 90% of adults have had HSV type 1 infection. Infections in children are often mild or cause no symptoms at all. Even if you have had HSV type 1, you can still catch HSV type 2. Herpes infection is spread from person to person by contact (touching, kissing, sexual) with the blisters or sores as well as from mother to baby.

You can get infected:

- By direct contact (touching, kissing, rubbing) with the sores or blisters.

- By having sex (vaginal, anal, or oral) especially if not using a condom.

- From mother to baby during delivery. Newborn babies can get severe infections that can lead to mental retardation or death.

Signs and symptoms:

- Painful small bumps on the lips or mouth that turn into blisters or open sores.

- Painful blisters or sores on or around the penis, vaginal, labia, or rectum.

Symptoms start about two to 12 days after infection. The first time a person has these symptoms is usually the worst. If the herpes skin lesions come back, they usually occur at the same place as before. Herpes can come back when a person is stressed out, has a fever, gets too much sun, and other times when the body is weakened. Herpes is also more common near the time when a woman has her period. The sores caused by HSV last for about a week or two. Treatment with acyclovir may help - a drug called acyclovir (Zovirax) is often prescribed for genital herpes. It can lessen the symptoms of herpes and decrease the amount of virus shed.

Prevent herpes infections by avoiding contact with sores and by good hygiene. People with herpes blisters or sores on the lips should not kiss babies or get their mouth close to a baby. They should also wash their hands very well before touching a baby. People with herpes infections of the lips should not kiss anyone on the mouth or genitals until the sores are healed.

Keeping toys clean and limiting saliva contact will help prevent infections among children. Gloves should be worn if touching open lesions. Covering lesions and handwashing will limit spread. Students and employees known to have herpes are not routinely excluded from schools or child care centres.

If you are pregnant and have herpes, it is very important to tell your doctor.

Herpes infection in babies is usually very serious. A doctor may recommend a caesarean section to avoid exposing the baby to the virus during birth.

"Downloaded" from the World Wide Web, 10.10.1996. (http://www.charm.net/epil/herpes.htm)

The Association of Radical Midwives.

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