The answer might seem obvious, but I get this question often in clinic. In particular, patients want to know if genital herpes is contagious even if they or their partner is not having an outbreak.
The answer is yes. Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease and is highly contagious. Although the risk of infecting someone else is much higher if you’re having an outbreak, it is still possible to transmit the virus, called HSV, even if you have no symptoms. About 1 in every 6 adults has genital herpes.
Once you have herpes, there is way to cure it. It is common to have recurring outbreaks especially in the first year, but in most people these lessen over time.
The only way to ensure you won’t get herpes is to abstain from sexual contact or to be in a monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected. Wearing a condom can reduce the chances of infection, but it’s still possible to be transmitted. Taking anti-herpes medication such as acyclovir can reduce the amount of virus and minimize the risk of transmitting it.
April is STD awareness month. If you’re thinking you might need to get tested, then you need to get tested.
Photo: Nicolai Grut, Flickr