Herpes Simplex: The Hidden Disease

The herpes virus was first documented during the times of Hippocrates (460-370 BCE).  He wrote about herpes lesions that covered the bodies of individuals throughout the area and how they would creep and crawl over their bodies. Herpes got its name from the word herpein which means to creep or crawl.  It is known as one of the oldest sexually transmitted diseases and is only being more understood in the last hundred years. An interesting fact: Shakespeare mentioned herpes in Romeo and Juliet.

What is Herpes Simplex?

Herpes simplex is a contagious viral infection caused by person-to-person contact. It is also known as HSV. Contact between persons must be direct to transmit the virus. In cases of children acquiring the infection, it is typically acquired early in life from an adult. There are technically three types of herpes simplex, HSV-I, HSV-II, and Birth Acquired. It is possible to have more than one type of herpes at one time. Herpes simplex is a lifelong virus.

What is Herpes Type 1 HSV-1?

Herpes simplex type I is an oral version of the contagious virus. Its appearance and outbreaks will typically occur on the face, mouth, or lips as cold sores or blisters. Individuals may experience pain in the area or have fevers. HSV-I is easily visible, and contact should be avoided when blisters, sores or any other outbreaks are noticeable.

How do you get Herpes 1 or HSV 1?

Herpes simplex 1 or HSV-I is transmitted in various ways. The most common way is through kissing.  Other means that it may be transferred include eating from the same silverware and sharing makeup. Anything that comes into contact with the sores and is shared can spread the disease. One of the unknown sources of transmission is oral sex. Receiving oral sex from an individual who has herpes simplex 1 can result in the transfer of both types of herpes. HSV-I can also be transmitted during birth. HSV-1 spreads fast when an infected individual has an outbreak. Studies indicate that 30-95% of adults test positive for HSV 1 even though it may never manifest.

What is Herpes Type 2 HSV- II?

Herpes Type 2 or HSV II is a genital version of the contagious virus. It is a sexually transmitted disease. Herpes typically appears on the genitals, anus, and or mouth. It is a common sexually transmitted disease that anyone can get. Studies have shown that one out of every six individuals aged 14-49 has herpes type 2 or HSV II. Herpes type 2 will look like pimples or ingrown hairs but can be painful blisters once they pop. Genital herpes or type 2 is most often the result of herpes type 1.

How Do You Get Herpes Type 2 or HSV-II?

Herpes simplex 2 or HSV-II is transmitted most often through sexual contact with someone who has the infection. Various interactions can result in the transmission, including contact with a herpes sore, the saliva of an infected individual who has oral herpes, genital secretions, vaginal sex, anal sex, and oral sex. It is estimated that 20% of the people in the United States have HSV-II. Most cases are contracted by contact with a person who has had no symptoms of the infection.

What is Birth-Acquired Herpes?

Birth-Acquired herpes or congenital herpes occurs when a pregnant mother has herpes is having an outbreak during childbirth. The child is exposed to herpes during the birthing process either during a natural birth or a c-section. Exposure to herpes places the baby at serious risk for complications such as systemic herpes or skin infections or both.

What are the effects of Birth-Acquired Herpes?

Birth-Acquired herpes can cause severe complications to an infant at birth. These complications can include diseases such as skin infections and or systemic herpes. Skin infections can spread anywhere on the body whereas systemic herpes can be fatal as they attack the central nervous system and or other organs within the body. Systemic herpes attacks the entire body. It can lead to seizures, brain damage, and or breathing problems at birth or anytime after that. These types of herpes occur in 30 out of every 100,000 births.

Herpes and the Risk During Pregnancy

While herpes has not been proven to affect fertility, it has been proven to affect pregnancy. The timing of the outbreaks is vital during pregnancy. If a woman has her first outbreak during her first trimester, it could result in a miscarriage. This is because the virus is the strongest on its first outbreak and it may be too strong for the first trimester when a pregnancy is new and just beginning to get settled in, the strength and vitality have yet to start. During the third trimester, the antibiotics may not have begun to protect the baby thus leaving it vulnerable to the infection. This could result in a stillbirth.

Who is at Risk?

Anyone, of any age, race, and sex is at risk for exposure and getting herpes of any type. Certain risk factors make you more vulnerable to this infection. They are risky sexual behavior without protection, having sex with multiple partners, engaging in sex at an early age, being a female, having another sexually transmitted disease, and having a weakened immune system. No one factor is riskier than the next however unprotected sex is the most dangerous.

Prevention Of Herpes

To reduce the number of herpes cases, individuals should know ways to protect themselves against all types of the disease. The first and foremost rule of thumb to be practiced is always to be aware of your partner and their appearance. Always practice safe sex, while condoms do not guarantee 100% protection, they do reduce the risk. It is okay and is the best possible answer to providing the best protection in avoiding most sexually transmitted diseases. Talk to your partner honestly. Ask questions and be candid with your questions. Have you had herpes, STDs, etc. not off the table? No matter what you think, if there is a question, get tested. Finally, if you are pregnant, talk to your physician and ask about birthing options and medications to reduce the risks of transmission to your newborn.