Herpes is caused by two different, but closely related viruses: Herpes Simplex Virus I and Herpes Simplex Virus II. Herpes I is most commonly associated with relatively common cold sores and fever blisters. Herpes II is more harmful. Both forms of herpes may be sexually transmitted.


Herpes is a virus that may be transmitted through touching, kissing, vaginal, oral and anal sexual contact. Herpes is most contagious when the sores it causes are present on the body. Some people can be contagious even when symptoms are not present.


  • Recurring clusters of blisters that open into painful red sores. These may appear on the vagina, cervix, penis, mouth, anus or anywhere else the virus entered the body
  • Pain and discomfort around infected area
  • Itching
  • Burning while urinating
  • Swollen glands in the groin
  • Fever or headaches
  • Tiredness
When will you notice symptoms?
The first outbreak of symptoms usually occurs two to 20 days (or longer) after the virus enters the body. The first outbreak is usually the most severe. Sores usually heal in two to three weeks, although the virus is still in the body.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Herpes can be diagnosed through a combination of a visual examination and viral tissue culture. There is no known cure for herpes, but there is anti-viral medication available that may relieve discomfort and speed the healing of sores. It also might be helpful to consult your health care provider about ways to strengthen your immune system.


During pregnancy, the presence of sores can cause problems with delivery and may effect the newborn baby. In addition, other existing health problems may make the herpes infection worse. Therefore, it is very important that you inform your health care provider that you have herpes.

Avoiding Herpes

  • Seek medical advice, evaluation and treatment if symptoms are present. Share information, both printed and verbal, with your partner(s), particularly information related to hygiene
  • Do not touch sores (if you do, wash hands well with soap and water)
  • Use extra caution when handling contact lenses
  • Always use a latex condom