If you often find yourself on WebMD expecting the worst after experiencing an extremely mild symptom, this is probably not the article for you. But, alas, here are seven facts about herpes that will genuinely make you surprised AF.
Dr Clare Morrison, GP at Med Express in the UK, shares 7 pretty surprising things you probably didn't know about herpes.
1. You probably have herpes (no joke)
According to statistics, one in six people have genital herpes. And the World Health Organisation has released a study that estimates 67% of people in the world have the HSV-1 strain of the herpes simplex virus — which refers to oral herpes infections; but also includes genital infections.
2. It's really not that bad
The good news is that these days genital herpes is pretty much no threat at all. It doesn’t cause physical damage, and although it can be painful during outbreaks, you can often go for years with no side effects at all. However, the fact is that a lot of people will have herpes without ever knowing about it.
3. Outbreaks aren’t the only symptoms
It’s pretty tough to spot the symptoms of herpes — in fact, there are often none at all! Typical signs include flu-like symptoms, such as itching, tingling, aching muscles and nerve pain. Recurrent thrush and bacterial infections can plague women who are suffering from herpes.
4. Even if you have herpes, you may never have an outbreak
Herpes lies dormant in your body. If a blood test shows you have antibodies for HSV-1 or 2 (the former typically causes oral outbreaks like cold sores, while the latter usually causes genital outbreaks); you’ll have been exposed to the infection in the past and you will have developed antibodies because your body is fighting the infection. The virus stays in the nerves and doesn’t come out unless you are ‘immunosuppressed’, which is a reduction of the activation or efficacy of the immune system, such as when you’re stressed or suffering from illness.
5. You can pass herpes on even if you’re not having an outbreak
Herpes is transmitted via skin-to-skin contact, not through blood or saliva. If you have the virus, you could be shedding it without having an outbreak and infect someone. This could lead to some rather awkward conversations if you’re dating. The question of when to raise this issue is a sensitive one. After all, too soon and you could never see your potential partner again. Too late… well, you certainly don’t want to be accused of passing on the virus deliberately. This is why it’s best to raise the topic in a careful and timely manner and explain the action you are taking to deal with the problem. Above all, don’t feel ashamed — there’s nothing to be ashamed about!
6. The longer you have the infection, the fewer outbreaks you’ll have
As a general rule, the first time you get a herpes outbreak is usually the worst. However, it’s important to remember that everyone’s body and immune system reacts differently — while some people never have many outbreaks, others could be chronically symptomatic.
7. You can contract herpes from activities other than sex
As mentioned above, herpes is caused by contact with a person who is actively shedding the virus. If you have HSV-1, the shedding could happen through the mouth or a cold sore, or by sharing a drink. Herpes can be transmitted by sharing sex toys, grinding or even mutual masturbation. And even sun beds, believe it or not!
Before you run off to the sexual health clinic, remember — don’t panic. The rise of antiviral medication over the last couple of decades means that herpes can be dealt with effectively, and often the stigma is more dramatic than the virus itself.
Via: Cosmopolitan UK