Genital Herpes in Women (cont.)

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How can genital herpes be prevented?

Herpes can be spread from one part of the body to another during an outbreak. It is also possible to spread the herpes virus infection even if you are not having an outbreak, so no prevention method is 100% effective. Still, certain preventive techniques can reduce your chances of spreading the infection to others.

  • Therefore, it is important not to touch the eyes or mouth after touching the blisters or ulcers.
  • Thorough hand washing is a must during outbreaks.
  • Clothing that comes in contact with ulcers should not be shared with others.
  • Couples that want to minimize the risk of transmission should always use condoms if a partner is infected. Unfortunately, even when an infected partner isn't currently having an outbreak, herpes can be spread.
  • Couples may also want to consider avoiding all sexual contact, including kissing, during an outbreak of herpes. It is important to avoid sexual contact from the time the initial symptoms begin (if present) until the scabs have disappeared.
  • Since an active genital herpes outbreak (with blisters) during labor and delivery can be harmful to the infant, pregnant women who suspect that they have genital herpes should tell their doctor. Women who have herpes and are pregnant can have a vaginal delivery as long as they are not experiencing symptoms or actually having an outbreak while in labor.

What is the prognosis (outlook) for genital herpes?

Recurrent outbreaks are the norm for people with genital herpes. About 90% of those infected report repeat outbreaks. While some people may develop only one to two outbreaks each year, others will have up to eight outbreaks a year. The symptoms are milder in most recurrent attacks than in the primary infection. If recurrent attacks are severe (typically more than six per year), antiviral medications as suppressive therapy may be recommended.

Reviewed by Edmund Petrilli, MD, American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology with subspecialty in Gynecologic Oncology
Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2011.

MedscapeReference. The Diagnosis and Management of Genital Herpes: The Silent Epidemic.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/2/2013

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