Henital Information: Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV-type 1 commonly causes fever blisters on the mouth or face (oral herpes), while HSV-type 2 typically affects the genital area (genital herpes). However, both viral types can cause either genital or oral infections. Most of the time, HSV-1 and HSV-2 are inactive, or "silent," and cause no symptoms, but some infected people have "outbreaks" of blisters and ulcers. Once infected with HSV, people remain infected for life. Results of a recent, nationally representative study show that genital herpes infection is common in the United States. Nationwide, 45 million people ages 12 and older, or one out of five (21.9%) of the total adolescent and adult population, is infected with HSV-2. HSV-2 infection is more common in women (approximately one out of four women) than in men (almost one out of five). This may be because male to female transmission is more efficient than female to male transmission. HSV-2 infection is also more common in blacks (45.9%) than in whites (17.6%). Race and ethnicity in the United States are risk markers that correlate with other more fundamental determinants of health such as poverty, access to quality health care, health-care seeking behavior, illicit drug use, and living in communities with high prevalence of STDs. When a person has sex with someone whose STD status is unknown, a latex condom put on before beginning sex and worn until the penis is withdrawn can reduce the risk of getting an infection. However, condoms do not provide complete protection, because a herpes lesion may not be covered by the condom and viral shedding may occur. If you or your partner has genital herpes, it is best to abstain from sex when symptoms are present, and to use latex condoms between outbreaks. Washing the genitals, urinating, or douching after sex does not prevent STDs. Any unusual discharge, sore, or rash, especially in the groin area, should be a signal to stop having sex and to see a doctor at once.
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