people under age 50 globally have herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) infection, the main cause of oral herpes.
people aged 15–49 (13%) worldwide have herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection, the main cause of genital herpes.
of people who have a herpes infection do not know they have it.
Herpes is common
More than two-thirds (67%)of people in the world have an infection with either herpes simplex type 1 or herpes simplex type 2.
Herpes is a very common skin disease. It’s caused by a virus and can affect your mouth and/or the area around the penis or vagina, upper thighs or buttocks. Depending on the part of your body that is affected, this is called either oral herpes or genital herpes.
Most of the time, it is hard to notice herpes, so most people don’t know they have it. Cold sores and fever blisters are an example of herpes around your mouth.
How does someone get herpes?
Herpes is passed on through direct skin-to-skin contact. You can get herpes from touching someone else’s skin that has herpes, including:
- Kissing someone with a cold sore
- Oral, anal and vaginal sex
- Touching any area infected with herpes
You can get herpes even if you can’t see it. Genital herpes can be transmitted sexually both when a person has noticeable symptoms and when they don’t.
What does herpes do to my body?
Most people who have herpes don’t know they have it. You can find out that you have herpes a few days or as late as years after getting it. Herpes usually affects the mouth and the area around the penis or vagina, buttocks or upper thighs.
Some signs of herpes may be:
- Blisters, bumps, or pimples on the infected area that crust over
- Pain while peeing
In the genital area, herpes sometimes looks like bug bites, rash, jock itch, zipper burn, razor burn, irritation from sex, or a yeast infection. It is easy to confuse the symptoms of herpes with these types of symptoms. The only way to know if you have herpes is to get tested.
How do I find out if I have herpes?
If you have symptoms that you think might be herpes, you should see a health care provider no later than 48 hours after noticing the symptom. When a person has active herpes lesions (a.k.a. blisters, sores), a swab can be taken and tests can done that can detect the virus directly. The tests used include culture and Nucleic Acid Amplification Testing (NAAT). Both culture and NAAT tests can identify the specific herpes virus type someone is infected with, but NAAT test are more sensitive. Culture can easily miss infections and give false negative results.
When there are no symptoms, blood tests can be done that detect specific HSV antibodies.
Is there a cure for herpes?
No, herpes can’t be cured. Once the virus enters your body, you can’t get rid of it. But there are ways to treat herpes that can lower the number of herpes outbreaks you have. Herpes is usually not harmful, but it can make it easier for you to receive HIV if you’re exposed. ASHA’s website has more information about herpes treatment.
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