Herpes – the key facts
Reassurances about herpes
- Herpes simplex causes a viral skin condition known as cold sores (on face), whitlows (on fingers) or 'herpes' on genitals or other skin areas
- As many as one in three adults has the virus that causes genital herpes.
- Around 80% of people infected with genital herpes don't know they have the virus because they have very mild symptoms or none at all.
- Over 50% of people who have genital herpes get it from people who are entirely unaware that they have herpes themselves.
- The emotional impact of being diagnosed with genital herpes is often much worse than the condition and it doesn't deserve the upset it causes.
- Oral herpes, also known as cold sores, is commonly transmitted to the genitals through oral genital contact. Up to 50% of genital herpes is caused by the oral cold sore type of herpes simplex.
- There is effective treatment available if herpes symptoms are problematic.
- The symptoms of genital herpes vary enormously. It can show up as blisters or sores, but it can also just produce a mild rash. And whatever symptoms do appear may be on the thighs, back, fingers, and of course the genitals.
- The herpes virus can be passed on when there are no symptoms present.
- Most people who infect others with herpes don't realise they are even putting their partners at risk.
- Using condoms reduces the risk of passing on the herpes virus, but doesn't completely eliminate it.
- Daily medication can prevent recurrences of the herpes virus and reduce the risk of transmission to partners.
- Having genital herpes is not associated with causing cervical cancer.