Did you know that the herpes virus is actually very common? The World Health Organization reports that 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 have herpes. There are two types of herpes virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2.
HSV-1 is considered more benign to people while the HSV-2 virus is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and can cause genital sores or blisters. However, type HSV-1 can also do the same.
Even though the name sounds scary, it is nothing to fear. Herpes is common and completely treatable and able to manage. Here are some things that every college student should do if they think they have herpes.
1. Know the Symptoms
The symptoms are pretty straight forward when it comes to herpes. However, they vary from person-to-person. Some people have tons of symptoms while some show none.
Some symptoms include:
- Burning when you pee
- Having trouble peeing
- Pain around your genitals
- Feeling achy and tired
Your first outbreak can happen anywhere from two to twenty days after you're infected. After that, you may never get an outbreak again, or you may get one several months later. Everyone is different.
2. Go to your doctor to get tested.
It's important to immediately go to the doctor if you think you might have herpes. You can be tested in various ways from having a sample from the sore sent to a lab or a blood test. The test looks for antibodies to the virus that your immune system would have made when infected to try to fight it off. HSV-2 is usually infected in the genitals so if antibodies to HSV-2 are detected in the blood, you most likely have genital herpes.
It is also possible to have a blood test that shows antibodies to HSV-1 which means you could have genital or oral herpes. Oral herpes, caused by HSV-1, can be spread to the genitals during oral sex.
3. Tell your partner or partners.
It's important to be honest to any sexual partners you have had. They have the right to know that they may have herpes. The first thing is to research all you can about it. Not many people are educated on it and can think it's worse than what the textbook says.
Present the facts, symptoms, and where they can go to get tested. Having all the information available for them if they have any questions will help them and give them less of a chance of overreacting.
Make sure you contact every partner, regardless if you doubt they may have gotten it. While the virus isn't deadly, it can lead to problems later in life if someone doesn't know they have it. It also isn't fair for any of the other partners that they may have later in life. You don't want it to spread to others.
4. Relax, because your life isn't over.
So herpes is not curable. However, before you panic, the treatment is easy and simple. You won't have to give up your love life or sex.
Some common medication that your doctor may have you take is Zovirax or Valdret to keep on hand in case you experience a sudden flare-up. If you get outbreaks more often, then you may have to take it daily. Herpes is completely manageable and is nothing to be ashamed of.
5. Use condoms and be careful.
Just because you have herpes and tell your partner about it, doesn't mean you can still get away with unprotected sex. To avoid further spread of the virus, make sure a condom is always being used. The only way to completely prevent the spread of an STD is to abstain from sex and if you don't want to do that, then condoms are the next best thing.
So there you go. That's what you should do if you think you might have herpes. Below are some answers to common questions that people may have about the virus.
1. Is it dangerous?
Herpes is rarely life-threatening. However, having the sores makes it easier for HIV to enter the body. Getting genital herpes increases the risk for HIV and having the two diseases together may make each one worse.
Pregnant women who have herpes can also pass it on to her child. The risk is at its highest towards the end of the pregnancy. If a mom was infected long before delivery, then the risk is reduced. Having herpes while pregnant can also affect how the baby is born; normally it is done by cesarean section.
2. I don't want to wear a condom. Are there any other preventative measures I can do instead?
While condoms have about a 90 percent success rate against STD's, there is an option to take suppressive therapy. It has been proven to successfully reduce the transmission of the disease.
3. Will I ever become resistant to the medicine?
This is a very rare occurrence for people who use drugs to help their outbreaks. However, everyone is different and it is possible for someone to gain some resistance. The solution though is easy and would just require taking more medicine to suppress the outbreak.
4. Are there any side-effects from taking the medication?
No major complications have been reported with the use of the drugs. At the very most they have extremely low side-effects.
5. Are there ever times where I can't spread herpes to my partners?
The likelihood of spreading the infection to your partner is highest when genital blisters are present. However, when the symptoms are benign, it is possible for herpes to be spread. One to three percent of individuals who are showing no signs of herpes, but have it, are releasing the virus at any given time.
6. Can I date with herpes?
Yes! Just because you have herpes doesn't mean your single life is over. Feel free to get out onto the dating scene. Just be sure to let your partners know you have it before doing anything sexually.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding genital herpes be sure to check out your local health care provider or doctor.