Quick GuideSexually Transmitted Diseases: HPV, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Herpes, HIV
What causes genital herpes, and how is it spread?
- The herpes viruses enter the skin or mucous membrane through tiny, even microscopic, breaks in the tissue when there is contact with an infected person. Because an infected person may spread the disease even when he or she does not have signs or symptoms of herpes, avoiding sexual contact with someone with active blisters does not guarantee protection against the infection. Even normal appearing skin can spread the infection. Clothing that touches genital skin ulcers may transmit
herpes simplex virus to others that wear the clothing.
- The average incubation period (time until symptoms develop) after exposure is 4 days, but symptoms may develop anywhere from 2 to 12 days after you have been exposed to the virus.
- Individual outbreaks of herpes vary among affected people in terms of their frequency and severity. Outbreaks can be related to the function of the immune system and are typically worse in cases in which the immune system is suppressed. For example, at times of physical or emotional stress, during illness, or when taking certain medications, genital herpes outbreaks may be more likely.
How do you get genital herpes (transmission)?
- Herpes simplex virus infection is transmitted by direct person-to-person contact.
- Genital herpes is acquired through sexual contact of any type that involves contact with the genital areas.
- Genital herpes also can be caused by mouth to genital contact with a person who has
cold sores or herpes infection of the mouth.
- Transmission from an infected male to a female partner is more likely than transmission from an infected woman to a male partner.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/25/2016