The following is a resource tool for GPs to counsel patients.
It can happen to anyone: First diagnosis of genital herpes
Genital herpes a common infection that affects 'ordinary' people
Myths and ignorance abound......Good information helps make sense of diagnosis
Why do I feel this way?
A diagnosis is often unexpected and you may feel
- Surprise, shock and grief
- Anger & blame
- or just have some questions......
What is the herpes simplex virus (HSV)?
- A common viral infection that's been around for centuries
- Most people have no symptoms
- Causes facial herpes (HSV1) passed by kissing
- and genital herpes (HSV1 or HSV2) passed by oral sex (HSV1) or genital to genital contact (HSV1 or HSV2)
- A fragile virus that dies when it leaves living human cells - not passed on through non-sexual contact e.g. toilets & showers, trying on clothes, medical examinations
When did I contract the virus?
Often not possible to work out because:
- Most people contract herpes from a partner who did not know they have HSV
- Most have very mild, or no symptoms and go undiagnosed - may have genital herpes for months or years before diagnosed, if ever
- Only small % of people have severe 1st symptoms - may indicate new infection
- HSV is not routinely tested for in sexual health check-up
How do people contract genital herpes?
Through direct skin to skin sexual contact including:
- Genital to genital and oral to genital
- Therefore virgins can & do contract genital herpes
- Condoms reduce transmission (condoms do stop many STIs)
- Partner has to be infected either facially or genitally – sore may not be obvious & the virus may be on the surface of the skin without symptoms on small % of days
Who did I contract the infection from?
- May be impossible to work out how long a personhas had the infection & who HSV came from
- If genital HSV1 - probably transmitted through oral sex, partner may have or had 'cold sores' on face
- If first symptoms are mild, may have had the infection for months or years
- Significant first symptoms ('flu-like illness, lots of blisters) may mean HSV contracted in past 2-20 days.
- If several recent partners may be impossible to determine who the infection came from. Genital herpes may appear in a long-term relationship with no outside partners involved
What next? Recurrences and treatment options
- Recommend oral anti-viral medication and pain relief to treat first episode
- Optional oral medication for recurrences
- If unwell take time off work - rest
- Prescription needed for anti-viral medication
- HSV1 – may have few, if any recurrences
- HSV2 – may have 2-6 recurrences per year
- Recurrences usually mild and are over in a few days
- Most people don't use regular medication after 1st episode
What next? Relationships
- Talk to your partner - share information
- Partner may have HSV – once contracted the virus doesn't pass back and forth
- Reduce transmission by avoiding genital contact with partner when symptoms present
- Condoms reduce transmission of HSV
- If partner does contract virus, most likely to have few if any symptoms
What's next? Future plans
People with genital herpes have normal lives...
- Have normal fertility
- Women have healthy babies and vaginal deliveries
- Can donate blood
- Can work in any occupation
- Can use spa & swimming pools
- Can cuddle with their kids in bed, share a bath
- Make choices with their partners about sexual
- practices and the use of condoms
- Have the same overall health, immune system and lifespan as others and no additional cancer risk
What next? Talking is good
- Tell trusted friend/family member
- Return to your GP, Family Planning Clinic
- or sexual health clinic for follow-up
- Counselling available at sexual health clinics
- For information, phone counselling & support group contact:
- Phone tollfree 0508 11 12 13 or from a mobile 094336526
NZ Herpes Foundation: Helping people to live ordinary lives
Tollfree 0508 11 12 13
Or from a mobile 09 4336526