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Home / Herpes Virus / Herpes Virus FAQs

Herpes Virus FAQs

What is herpes?

Herpes is a type of virus that can cause genital herpes, shingles and cold sores. Different strains of the herpes virus are responsible for causing the different conditions. The herpes virus will remain in your body indefinitely once you have caught it. It can stay dormant for a considerable amount of time, but it is likely to cause recurrent outbreaks of symptoms. The herpes zoster strain of this virus causes chickenpox, and then later shingles. The herpes simplex strain causes cold sores and genital herpes.

How do I know if I have genital herpes, shingles or cold sores?

Symptoms of genital herpes, when they do occur, include distinctive red sores around the genital area. If you are displaying these symptoms, you should take an STI test or visit your doctor for an examination. Shingles is often preceded by a tingling sensation in the area affected. You will likely experience a similar tingling sensation before a cold sore outbreak.

How did I get herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection and can be passed on through any form of unprotected sexual contact. The virus that causes cold sores can be passed on through any kind of skin contact in an area where the virus is active. A common example is kissing.

Are shingles, cold sores and genital herpes caused by the same virus?

Though different strains are responsible for each of the conditions, each infection is caused by a strain of the herpes virus. Shingles is caused by the herpes zoster strain, while cold sores and genital herpes are caused by the herpes simplex strain.

Is herpes very infectious?

There is always a chance that the herpes virus could be passed on, but there are times when the virus is considerably more infectious than others. Immediately before and during an outbreak is the time when the virus is most infectious.

Will I pass on genital herpes to my partner if we have sex?

You should always use a condom during sexual activity to minimise the risk of transmitting this STI and you should refrain from sex entirely immediately before and during an outbreak. We advise that you discuss this with your doctor, who will be able to advise you further.

Is there a herpes cure?

Unfortunately, there is not currently a cure for herpes. However, outbreaks and the associated symptoms can be reduced and alleviated by antiviral treatments such as Aciclovir, Famvir and Valtrex.

Are there any medications to treat the virus?

Yes. As mentioned above, medications can treat but not cure the herpes virus. This includes both the herpes zoster and herpes simplex strains of the virus. The antiviral medications proven to do this are Aciclovir, Famvir and Valtrex.

I am pregnant and have herpes - what should I do?

There is a risk that the herpes virus could be very dangerous to a newborn baby, so it is very important to tell your doctor that you have herpes if you are pregnant. They will be able to advise you further if any precautions need to be taken.

How often will I have outbreaks?

The regularity and number of outbreaks will differ from person to person. It may be that you will not experience any outbreaks for years at a time, or they may occur more frequently.

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