Genital Herpes Transmission

Herpes simplex virus is the causative agent of the fairly prevalent herpes infection. It is classified as a sexually transmitted illness which is transmitted during unprotected sexual intercourse from an infected person to healthy contacts. On the basis of area of primary infection and site of involvement, herpes virus is divided into two categories HSV I, which causes oral infection such as oral sores and blisters, etc. and HSV II which causes genital herpes such as formation of sores or blisters in the genital region.

The incidence of HSV II in general population has significantly increased in the past few years, which can be attributed to the higher rate of sexual activity in young and immature teenagers. HSV II virus does not cause immediate signs of disturbing infection after gaining access in the biological system. The viral agents have a propensity to reside in the neurons until its reactivation and have high rate of replication at the site of infection. This multiplication process of HSV II is termed as shedding also because in this stage the infected person is capable of shedding and transferring the infection to healthy contacts upon sexual encounter. After causing infection, it gets back to its original residing site i.e. ganglions (collection of neuron outside the brain) until it is reactivated again.

Facts About Genital Herpes Transmission

In most cases, herpes virus does not show its symptoms immediately. This is because virus enters a unique latent, inactive, dormant phase in which it shows no activity. Hence the infected person does not know if he/she is carrying the herpes virus. Following are some facts that must be considered regarding the spread and symptoms of genital herpes:

  • Direct contact from an active infected person: Direct contact with the sores of an infected person such as contact through mucous membranes, or through anal or vaginal sex is the main source of spreading genital herpes.
  • Direct contact from an inactive infected person: The herpes virus can also go into a latent phase in which it does not replicate and even if replicate it does not show any symptoms. So there are chances that a person may get infection from an inactive person who transfer the infection through the process of shedding.
  • Vertical transmission: Herpes virus can also be transferred through non-vaginal route such as oral sex. In some cases this virus is transferred from mother to child during the period of pregnancy, but these cases are very rare.
  • Asymptomatic shedding: This stage includes the transmission of virus through sexual contact when the infected person is not showing any symptom of genital herpes such as sores and blisters, etc.


It should be noted that Herpes virus only enters in the systemic circulation after direct physical contact with the infected viral products, mostly via mucous membrane. It does not spread through contaminated toilet seats or tubs.

Consult your doctor immediately if you start developing any symptoms even if the symptoms are general in nature like fever, nausea, vomiting, generalized weight loss, etc. after sexual contact with a known carrier.

Prevention of Genital Herpes Transmission

1. Limit Your Sexual Activities

If you are developing the symptoms of herpes infection such as sores, blisters around the genitals or cold sores around mouth, then you must restrain yourself for oral, vaginal or anal sex until you are fully recovered. Kissing should be avoided if cold sores are present. Sex toys must be shared with caution such as after proper cleaning or washing.

2. Use Protection During Sex

If you have multiple sex partners, it is highly recommended to always use a condom or other physical barriers during sex even if the symptoms are not visible. Condom only covers the skin of the penis, so if there are any sores present around the anal opening, then extra care should be taken.

3. Test for Diagnosis

If you are aware of your carrier status of herpes and you are observing positive symptoms of infection in your partner, it is highly recommended to seek genitourinary consultation to confirm the diagnosis and initiate therapy.

4. Avoid Sharing Daily Use Accessories

Although herpes virus can only survive inside a living cell and not on nonliving objects such as undergarments or clothing; but for best results, it is recommended to avoid sharing intimates like towels, hair brush, handkerchief, etc. with others as a precautionary measure.

5. Stay Informed About Medications Available

If you are experiencing the symptoms of genital herpes, you must collect sufficient information about antiviral medications. The exact cure of herpes infection is not known, but antiviral medications are available to restrict the symptoms and prevent the spreading of virus through shedding. Consultation with your doctor should be taken as a prior step after developing symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions About Herpes Virus Transmission

Having genital herpes is a matter of serious concern and can greatly compromise the quality of sexual life. People are always looking for valuable and vital information pertinent to the early diagnosis and prompt treatment. Some frequently asked questions are:

1. What Are the Chances of Complications?

The severity of this disease becomes intense during the time of an active outbreak. A little contact with an infected sore may result in the transfer of infection to otherwise healthy area. Certain areas, especially body parts with open mucous membranes, are sensitive in nature such as eyes, mouth, open wounds, etc. and are at higher risk of developing complications of genital herpes.

2. What Are the Chances of Transferring the Infection to the Baby During Pregnancy?

If you have conceived during the phase of active infection, you must consult your doctor. The doctor may run some tests and perform physical examination to see if the sores are present in the birth canal. If the birth canal is clear, the doctor will most likely approves a vaginal delivery but if there is any evidence of infection within the vaginal canal, then the baby will be ideally delivered through cesarean section to minimize the risk of complications in the newborn.

3. Can Herpes Lead to the Development of AIDS?

The causative agent of genital herpes and AIDS are different. So having herpes may not lead to AIDS; however, if you have engaged in sexual activity with an AIDS patient, the sores and blisters of herpes can definitely increase the rate of transmission.

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