Herpes is Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) caused by a virus, herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) or the herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1). Herpes is a common and highly contagious infection usually spread through sex. It affects both men and women.

Street Name: Herpes, Cold Sores

How you get it: You can get Herpes through vaginal, anal and oral sex. But also through skin to skin contact and sex play. Herpes can also be spread through sores. Even if you do not have a sore, you can still spread the infection. Sharing personal items like toothbrushes and eating utensils can transmit herpes. Again, the virus can be spread even when there are no visible symptoms of an outbreak.

Symptoms: Most people infected show no signs or symptoms of the infection. Others may show such mild symptoms that it goes unnoticed.

The first outbreak may affect your whole body. You may have a fever and feel run down. You may notice a tingling, itching or soreness, or a swelling in your outer genitals. Small, fluid-filled blisters will appear. The blisters are reddish and have a slit, similar to a paper cut, through the center of the swelling. The surrounding skin may also be reddened. If urine touches the sores, it can cause a painful burning. It may also burn when you urinate. The sores often split, ooze, and scar before they heal. The symptoms can last from 10 days to three weeks.

Recurring Cases – Once contracted, the herpes virus stays in the system. Recurring cases are often milder, with blisters in the genital area being the only visible symptom. However the extent and frequency of recurrence varies considerably.

Treatment/ Relief: There is no cure for herpes. There are treatments that can relieve symptoms and frequency of outbreaks. Medication can help you to prevent from spreading the virus to others. The best way to treat a herpes outbreak is to keep your immune system healthy and decrease stress.

Other types of treatment: Staying healthy is your best defense for recurrent outbreaks of herpes. Here are some suggestions of vitamins and minerals that may strengthen your immune system:

Vitamin C 2 – 5 gms/daily
Vitamin B-6 100 gms/daily
Zinc 50 mg/daily
Lysine 500 mg/daily and 1000 mg/three times a day during active lesions

Avoid foods with high arginine content – Chocolate, peanut butter, cashews, almonds, sunflower and other seeds, peas. oats, corn, coconut. Avoid coffee.

Include foods in your diet that are high in lysine content – Brewer’s yeast, dairy products, eggs, fish, potatoes.

Click here for Self-Help Home Remedies for herpes.

What should you know:

There are over 750,000 new cases of herpes each year. Over 80% of people with herpes do not know they are infected and can pass the infection to other people.

In the U.S., about 1 in 6 people have gential herpes. Women and African-Americans are most likely to be infected. HSV-2 is nearly twice as high among women (21%) as men (11%), and more than three times higher among African-Americans (39%) than whites (12%).

How does this impact pregnancy?

A pregnant women with herpes can transmit the infection to the infant during labor or delivery. The risk for infection to the infant is highest if the woman is infected late in her pregnancy. If you are pregnant and think you may have herpes, seek treatment immediately.