Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV.

  • Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1)
    HSV-1 usually causes fever blisters and cold sores on the mouth, but can also cause sores on the genitals, usually from oral-genital contact (i.e., oral sex) from someone who is infected with oral herpes.
  • Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2)
    HSV-2 usually causes blisters and sores on the genitals (vagina, penis, anus) and the skin around those areas.

Genital herpes is transmitted via direct skin-to-skin contact during oral, anal, and vaginal sex. It is possible for genital herpes to be transmitted even when blisters or sores are not present. Once HSV gets into the body, it lives there forever, either with periodic symptoms or without any symptoms at all. Genital herpes is not usually a severe or dangerous infection by itself. The sores can be painful and it can cause emotional distress because the infection is not curable.

About 50-80% of the adult population in the United States has oral herpes and about 15% of adults in the United States has genital herpes; however, as many as 90% of these infected people don't know they have the virus.

Genital Herpes Facts Sheet
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