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What is genital herpes and how do I know if I have it?

Last updated on September 30, 2020

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Most cases of genital herpes are caused by herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) but it can also be caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). It can be spread by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the the herpes virus. In the U.S. genital herpes is common and more than one out of every six people between the ages of 14-49 have genital herpes.

Most people who have genital herpes are unaware that they have it because they have no or very mild symptoms. Herpes symptoms can include having one or more blisters on or around the genitals, or rectum. The blisters break and turn into painful, itchy sores that can take up to a week or more to heal. 

Usually the first time someone has an outbreak, it is worse than future outbreaks. You may experience flu-like symptoms like a fever, body aches, or swollen glands, in addition to the blisters.

People can experience repeated outbreaks of genital herpes, so if you notice any of these symptoms, we recommend that you see your doctor who can examine or test you for genital herpes.

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