A new Swedish study has found that herpes may be more hidden than previously thought and just not having visual confirmation of the sexually transmitted disease doesn’t mean you aren’t infected. In the study, just four out of ten patients with genital herpes actually knew that they had the disorder, and a third of those did not realize that they had been infected reported typical symptoms at a follow-up visit.

Matilda Berntsson has presented the information and states:

“1,014 patients who attended sexual health clinics, the Sahlgrenska University Hospital skin clinic and the Sesam sexual health clinic were tested for herpes simplex virus type 2. The presence of antibodies in the blood shows that a person is infected with the virus. The study reinforces our perception that genital herpes is common and that most people carrying it are unaware that they have it. Non-specific recurring genital symptoms could be undiagnosed herpes, which can be detected with a simple test at the doctor’s.”

Basically if you are concerned, go get checked out. Don’t wait for open sores to appear or other visual symptoms.

Genital herpes caused by herpes simplex virus type 2 spreads through sexual contact, and more than 500 million people worldwide have the disorder. In the West 10 to 30% of the population carry the virus, making it one of the most widespread sexually transmitted infections.

The virus causes painful sores and blisters in the genital area and, in rare cases, serious infections in the brain and spinal cord. The infection is for life and there are currently no cures or vaccines for genital herpes. Herpes simplex virus type 1, which generally causes oral herpes/cold sores, can also infect the genitals, but tends not to result in recurring problems.

Berntsson continues:

“If the symptoms and/or findings suggest herpes, there are good methods for testing for the disorder. Pronounced symptoms can be treated with medicines that alleviate discomfort, and a daily preventative treatment can be given for longer periods where recurrences are frequent.”

In a related piece published in the The Journal of the American Medical Association Anna Wald, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle adds:

“Our findings suggest that ‘best practices’ management of HSV-2-infected persons who learn that they are infected from serologic testing should include anticipatory guidance with regard to genital symptoms, as well as counseling about the potential for transmission. The issue of infectivity is both a patient management and a public health concern. The primary concern of many HSV-2-seropositive persons is the risk of transmission to sexual partners; in our experience this is the main source of angst in patients with genital herpes.”

Wald concludes with best prevention and transmission practices:

“Condom use, daily valacyclovir therapy, and disclosure of HSV-2 serostatus each approximately halve the risk of HSV-2 transmission. However, these approaches reach a small portion of the population and have not had an influence on HSV-2 seroprevalence in the last decade. One of the reasons for such a limited effect is that few people are aware of their genital HSV-2 infection, and routine serologic testing, although available commercially, is recommended only in limited settings. We hope that these data will result in further discussions regarding control programs for HSV-2 in the United States.”

Sources: News Release and Journal of the American Medical Association

Written by Sy Kraft