herpes simplex magnified

Genital herpes is caused by HSV (Herpes Simplex Virus). There are two types of herpes simplex viruses: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 generally prefers the area around the mouth (also referred to as “cold sores” or “fever blisters”) and HSV-2 generally prefers the genitals (also referred to as genital herpes). These two virus types belong to the much larger herpes virus family, which includes other viruses such as chicken pox and Mononucleosis.

After the first herpes outbreak (which tends to be the most extreme as the body hasn’t developed antibodies to fight it yet), the herpes virus goes into latency (also known as herpes dormancy) in the spinal ganglia where it stays until it is roused from its sleep for the next herpes outbreak (which may never happen). Whether or not an outbreak is occurring, your partner can still get herpes. How can this be? Herpes doesn’t need to be visible on the skin in order to be passed. About 10% of the time, the herpes virus is silently going through something called viral shedding. Some people claim to be able to feel when viral shedding is happening, but one can’t know for sure due to lack of visible herpes symptoms. Suppressive therapy can help lessen the chance of passing herpes to a partner (depending on the source, between 50-94%!). Get to know your body and how it feels when outbreaks are coming on.

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