Herpes FAQs Frequently Asked Questions and Answers.
Herpes frequently asked questions. Don't believe everything you read on the internet...especially the pictures!

Herpes FAQs - Things You Want To Know About Herpes

There is a wealth of knowledge out there covering herpes.  Sadly, much of it is confusing, misleading or just plain wrong.  Just remember, not everything you read in the internet is true. This is especially true for herpes. We are, by no means, medical experts on herpes nor are we claiming to be.  After over a decade online, tons of research, talking with doctors and the personal experiences of 1000’s of real people, we have learned a lot.

Here, we will try to answer the most frequently asked questions about herpes. More specific questions and advice can be asked in the member forums. Our members are quick to answer any questions and genuinely care as many will share similar experiences.

Never search for, "Herpes pictures." Ever.

Public service announcement: The pictures of herpes found online are usually extreme and the absolute worst case examples.  Most likely, these cases are the result of other factors and are not even remotely typical of a herpes outbreak.  Just an FYI: It is almost impossible to diagnosis a herpes infection simply by looking at pictures.  If you think you may have herpes, please see a doctor to get tested.  It will relieve a ton of stress worrying about it.

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Top 3 Herpes FAQs

These are, by far, the top 3 questions we get about herpes.

Is There A Cure For Herpes?

No.  As of 2024 there is no cure for herpes.  A quick search will bring up many results of official looking websites claiming they have a “Herpes cure.” They are scams. There have been several clinical trials looking for a herpes cure but none have been successful.  Herpes can be treated to lessen the symptoms but the virus is still present.

Is Herpes Only Contagious During An Outbreak?

No.  This is a huge misconception.  Herpes can be spread even in the absence of a visible outbreak due to viral shedding.  For most people, herpes symptoms are so slight that they are unaware they are carrying the virus. One of the biggest reasons herpes is so easily spread is that most people do not know they have it. 

Can I Date Someone Without Herpes?

Of course! We have countless members who went on to marry a partner who did not have herpes. Many will say that we gave them the confidence and helped them along the way. We love this kind of feedback!  On the other hand, many people choose to just date others with herpes and skip the chance of rejection or Giving the Talk. Thankfully, we have lots of great members who want to meet others!

What Is Herpes?

Herpes is a virus spread by close personal contact, such as kissing or sexual intercourse. There are two types of herpes that are discussed in this frequently asked questions list. The first type is herpes simplex type 1 (or HSV-1). HSV-1 occurs most often on or near the mouth and appears as a blister or cold sore. The second type, herpes simplex type 2 (or HSV-2), occurs most often on or near the sex organs and is referred as “genital herpes.”

How many people have Genital Herpes?

According to the CDC, 1 in 6 people have herpes in the United States. There are other credible sources who put that number as high as 1 in 4.  Nobody knows the exact number.

Herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States, with as many as one million people in the United States becoming infected each year. It doesn’t matter what ethnicity or social-economical class you belong to, what race or ethnicity you are.

What Is The Difference Between HSV1 and HSV2?

HSV1 and HSV2 are virtually identical under a microscope.  The main difference is where they prefer to live.  HSV2 is almost always in the genital region.  HSV1 is the herpes virus that is associated with coldsores. HSV1 is, by far, the most common form of herpes.  It can also be transmitted to the genital region of a partner.  The only way to tell what type of herpes you have is by a herpes test. See our blog Herpes Simplex Type breakdown. The difference between HSV1 and HSV2 for more information.

How Do You Get Herpes?

Herpes is spread by direct skin to skin contact. It is not an airborne virus that you can catch, like other viruses. If you have herpes, there is always a chance that you can spread it to your partner. This goes for both HSV-1 (Oral herpes) and HSV-2 (Genital herpes). You can also spread HSV-1 (Oral herpes) to to genitals of your partner. This is most common when a cold sore is present.

You do not need an outbreak or cold sore present to spread herpes. Many people notice signs of an oncoming outbreak. These “Prodromal Symptoms” may include tingling, itching or even flu-like symptoms. These are warning signs that the virus is very contagious. Some people are asymptomatic, meaning that they show no signs or symptoms of having the herpes virus.

Can You Get Herpes From Oral Sex?

“Don’t believe the myth about herpes that says Type 1 only affects people above the waist. Giving your partner oral sex with an active cold sore can give them genital herpes. It’s the same virus, just a different location. While Herpes Type 1 is the most common cause of cold sores and Type 2 the most common cause of genital herpes, this is not exclusively the case. ” – Dr. Sally Cockburn

Many people do not realize that cold sores are in fact oral herpes, and that you can give oral herpes, HSV-1 to a person in their genital region if you perform oral sex on them. This is why HSV-1 is becoming more common in the genitals. Alternately, the virus that causes genital herpes, HSV-2 can be transmitted to your mouth if you go down on someone who has genital herpes, or vice versa. Either type of the virus can reside in either area of the body, on its own, or together, and infect orally and/or genitally.

In other words, you can have HSV-1, generally associated with cold sores/oral herpes genitally, and HSV-2 orally.

Can You Get Herpes From A Toilet Seat?

The herpes virus is transmitted when a person makes direct contact with a lesion or secretions of an infected person. The virus enters the body through the skin or mucous membranes of the genital area. Transmission occurs primarily through vaginal, anal and oral-genital sexual contact. The herpes virus is quite fragile and cannot survive long outside the body. Transmission through inanimate objects such as toilet seats is unlikely.

How About A Hot Tub Or Swimming Pool?

Herpes Web (http://www.herpesweb.net/) is a United Kingdom web site sponsored by Glaxo Smith Kline which gives information about herpes to health care professionals and the general public. Professor Richard J. Whitley, Loeb Eminent Scholar Chair, Pediatrics and Professor of Pediatrics, Microbiology & Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham is a top international specialist in herpes. Professor Whitley advised the public on the Herpes Web message board in January 2003; “Keep your hot tub. The only way this infection is transmitted is by intimate sexual contact. It is what you do in the hot tub that can lead to transmission.”

Bluntly put, the only way you could be exposed to herpes while in a hot tub or swimming pool is if you are having some type of sex. Herpes is transmitted via skin to skin contact, kissing, sexual intercourse, and oral sex. Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease. Herpes is not transmitted through exposure to water in which a person with herpes has been.

Is There Any Connection Between HIV And Herpes?

People who have genital herpes are twice as likely to acquire HIV than those who don’t have the virus. Fifty-two percent of sexually transmitted HIV infections among people who also have herpes simplex virus type 2 can be attributed to infection with the herpes virus. This is because genital herpes and HIV can both be transmitted sexually. During a genital herpes outbreak, CD4 cells, which fight against the herpes infection, are found at the base of a herpes sore. CD4 cells are the main cells attacked by HIV. Therefore, if you are exposed to HIV during sexual contact and you have genital herpes sores, HIV can find an easy entry into your body.

Up to 95% of people who have HIV are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1, herpes simplex virus type 2, or both.
– Answer from Famvir.com

What Are The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes?

In men, genital herpes is often mistaken for folliculitis, jock itch, “Normal” itch, zipper burn, hemorrhoids, allergy to condoms, insect/spider bites, and irritation from tight jeans/sexual intercourse/bike seat. (Ashley RL, Wald A. Clin Microbiol Rev. 1999;12:1-8)

In women, a genital herpes outbreak is often mistaken as a yeast infection, vaginitis, urinary tract infection, hemorrhoids, heat rash, menstrual complaint, urethral syndrome, allergy to condoms/sperm/spermacide/pantyhose/elastic, irritation from a bike seat, shaving, douching. (Ashley RL, Wald A. Clin Microbiol Rev. 1999;12:1-8)

It is important to note that some people are asymptomatic and never show any signs or symptoms of having herpes.

Are Cold Sores Herpes? Canker Sores?

Cold sores ARE herpes. Canker sores are not.

Canker sores usually heal in about a week or two. Rinsing with antimicrobial mouth rinses may help reduce the irritation. Over-the-counter topical anesthetics can also provide relief. Cold sores usually heal in about a week. Over-the-counter topical anesthetics can provide temporary relief and prescription antiviral drugs may reduce these kinds of viral infections.
– Answer from the American Dental Association

Cold sores are caused by the herpes virus, can be transmitted to others, and are not curable. It is not known exactly what causes canker sores, but it is known that they are not contagious. Having a cold sore can spread herpes to the genital region of another, usually from oral sex.

How Can The Transmission Of Herpes Be Prevented?

“People with herpes think there is a 100 per cent probability that they will pass their condition onto someone. But if a person is taking their medication and practicing safe sex, their risk of passing herpes onto another is low. It’s all about learning how to manage the condition.” – Dr. Ian Denham

The most reliable method of preventing transmission is to abstain from sexual intercourse and oral-genital sex from the time warning signs or lesions appear until the time lesions are completely healed. Condoms and contraceptive foams may offer some protection but do not always prevent transmission of the disease since the virus may be anywhere in the genital area.

Patients with active infections (meaning sores are present) should not share unwashed clothing or towels with other people. Hot water, laundry detergent, and bleach will kill the virus so there is no threat of infection to others once the items have been washed.

It is very important that anyone experiencing an outbreak of herpes practice good personal hygiene: avoid touching the lesions and always wash the hands after using the bathroom. This is important to prevent transmitting the virus to another place on the body. Herpes patients who wear glasses or contact lenses should take special precaution to avoid transmitting the virus to their eyes.

People experiencing an outbreak of herpes often have feelings of despair and hopelessness. Because of their fear of spreading the infection, they often isolate themselves from others. When people have an outbreak, they should refrain from sexual contact, but that does not mean that they cannot be close. Many herpes patients continue to sleep in the same bed with another person but wear some clothing to avoid accidental contact while they are infectious.
– answer from U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventative Medicine

Is It Safe To Have Unprotected Sex Without Any Symptoms Present?

There is no safe time to have unprotected sex if you have herpes. Using protection while taking anti-viral medication can reduce the chances of transmission but there is no guarantee.

Do I Have To Tell Every Person I Have Sex With That I Have Herpes?

Yes. You need to have ‘the talk” if you are going to be sexually intimate with your partner. It is a matter of respect for the person you are involved with and your responsibility to inform them. It is a good idea to have this discussion with your partner BEFORE becoming intimately involved, and giving your partner the opportunity to learn more about herpes and consider their decision.

Have More Questions? Just Ask!

As a member of HWerks, you will have access to 1000s of people who probably have an answer to your questions and are willing to help.  Of course, you could post your question here and we will do our best to answer it.

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