Wanted: Herpes Simplex Virus 2

By: Gina Loyola

What is herpes II?

Herpes 2 is a sexually transmitted viral infection, which often produces painful sores, usually in the genital area.

Who gets herpes II?

Any person who has intimate sexual contact with an infected person can contract the infection. In addition, herpes II can be spread from an infected mother to her child during birth.

How is herpes II spread?

The herpes II virus is spread during sexual contact with an infected person who is secreting the virus in fluids from lesions or mucous membranes.

What are the symptoms of herpes II?

Typically, the first signs of herpes II is a cluster of blister-like lesions in the genital area which spread and merge, break and crust over within four to 15 days. The fluid from these itching, painful sores is highly infectious. Other frequent symptoms are painful urination, urethral or vaginal discharge and swollen lymph nodes. The first exposure or primary episode consists of headache, fever, chills and muscular weakness. Recurrent episodes are less severe and are limited to the affected area.

How soon do symptoms appear?

Some studies have shown that from one-half to two-thirds of people infected with the virus will have no symptoms. But, if they appear, local symptoms may be seen from two to 12 days after exposure.

When and for how long is a person able to spread herpes II?

People are most likely to transmit the virus when the lesions are evident. There is evidence, however, that the virus may be shed even when no symptoms of a recurrent episode are present.

Does past infection with herpes II make a person immune?

No. After the initial infection, the herpes II virus becomes dormant within the body. Symptoms may recur with varying frequency and are often associated with stress factors.

What is the treatment for herpes II?

Acyclovir, valacyclovir and famciclovir have been shown to reduce the shedding of herpes II virus, diminish pain and speed the healing of primary herpes lesions. In the oral form, this treatment also appears to shorten the duration of both primary and recurrent episodes.

What can a person or community do to prevent the spread of herpes II?

Avoidance of sexual contact with symptomatic individuals is an immediate, but only partial answer because herpes virus may be shed while the infected individual remains asymptomatic. Cesarean section is often recommended when primary or recurrent herpes II lesions occur in late pregnancy.

5 interesting facts about herpes simplex virus II?

  • Genital herpes infection is common in the United States. Nationwide, 16.2% of persons aged 14 to 49 years have HSV-2 infection.

  • Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) is the main cause of genital herpes.
  • Symptoms usually appear within 1 - 2 weeks after sexual exposure to the virus.
  • The first signs are a tingling sensation in the affected areas, (genitalia, buttocks, thighs), and groups of small red bumps that develop into blisters.
  • About 40% of men and 70% of women develop other symptoms during initial outbreaks of genital herpes, such as flu-like discomfort, headache, muscle aches, fever, and swollen glands.