What is Herpes? Herpes is the collective name of viral diseases caused by herpes simplex, or simply herpes virus, as it is commonly known. The prevalence of the virus should be of great concern to adults, one-third of whom are believed to have the virus. Another worrying statistic is that 80% of those suffering from genital herpes have no idea they have the disease due to its rather mild symptoms in most cases such as a small raw wound, tingling sensation, and a slight itch in the genital and anal regions. However, in the remaining 20% of those affected, the symptoms cannot be ignored.
Symptoms of Herpes
The symptoms to look for are a single blister or blisters around the mouth for oral herpes or blisters on the genitals and the rectum in the case of genital herpes. These blisters, in turn, become tender sores when they break and can be painful. The sores and pain can cause psychological stress.
What Causes Herpes?
First, let us note that oral herpes is caused by Herpes simplex type 1 or HSV1 while genital herpes is the result of herpes simplex type 2 or HSV2. HSV1 is transmitted through contact with oral secretions from an infected person, for instance, during kissing, when sharing utensils, and when using personal effects such as toothbrushes. HSV2, on the other hand, is spread through any form of contact with the genitals of the affected person. HSV2 can also be transmitted from the mother to the newborn(s) during the process of childbirth. Let us also note that both HSV1 and HSV2 can be transmitted even without the presence of visible sores in the mouth and genitals.
Diagnosis of Herpes Simplex
The most comprehensive tests for the presence of herpes simplex are laboratory tests such as DNA, PCR or any other culture tests.
Experienced medical practitioners without access to specialized facilities can also easily diagnose certain stages of the disease especially when the physical symptoms are evident in the patient.
Unfortunately, for now, there is no cure for herpes. However, there are various drugs on the market that can provide symptomatic relief for HSV 2. These drugs include Zovirax, Famvir, and Valtrex.
Given the vast prevalence of the herpes simplex virus, estimated at one in every three adults, it is necessary for us to observe measures such as not sharing toothbrushes, protecting ourselves during sexual intercourse and proper medical care for those infected.
Pregnant mothers should also be screened for the disease and appropriate measures taken if they are found to be infected.