Genital herpes – your questions answered

You will find answers to all your herpes questions here. What is herpes? How did I catch herpes? Who did I get my herpes from? If we don’t mention something, either it is a fake story (and we cannot deal with all of those!)  Or else there is no single answer, such as “How many outbreaks will I have?” or “What do I do now I have herpes?” These questions depend on your genes, lifestyle and relationship situation. These need a chat with a herpes support helpline person.

See why you can trust our herpes information. See list of scientific sources for the answers here.

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Sources used to create this herpes information:

  1. BASHH: 2014 UK national guideline for the management of anogenital herpes    NB: We are involved with the re-writing team for this guideline. The new version is out for consultation at present. As soon as it is published, we will update the references. 
  2. van Rooijen MS, Roest W, Hansen G, et al. Sexually Transmitted Infections – Published Online First: [11-01-16] doi:10.1136/sextrans-2015-052213
    Shows antibody tests for herpes simplex are wrong in 33% of cases, especially in type 1 results.
  3. BMJ publications: A Scoular Using the evidence base on genital herpes: optimising the use of diagnostic tests and information provision Sexually Transmitted Infections 2002;78:160-165 doi:10.1136/sti.78.3.160
    Shows false positive result in herpes simplex antibody tests of 10% or more using the commercially available serology tests.
  4. Scoular A, Norrie J, Gillespie G, Mirr N, Carman WF. Longitudinal study of genital infection by herpes simplex virus type 1 in western Scotland over 15 years. BMJ 2002; 324:1366-67.
    This gives 60% with type 1
  5. Looker KJ, Magaret AS, May MT, Turner KME, Vickerman P, Gottlieb SL, et al. (2015) Global and Regional Estimates of Prevalent and Incident Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Infections in 2012. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0140765. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0140765
  6. Vyse AJ, Gay NJ, Slomka MJ, Gopal R, Gibbs T, Morgan-Capner P, Brown DW. The burden of infection with HSV-1 and HSV-2 in England and Wales: implications for the changing epidemiology of genital herpes Sex Transm Inf 2000;76:183–187
    This gives 10% with type 2
  7. Looker KJ, Magaret AS, Turner KME, Vickerman P, Gottlieb SL, Newman LM (2015) Global Estimates of Prevalent and Incident Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 Infections in 2012. PLoS ONE 10(1): e114989. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0114989
  8. Woolley PD, Chandiok S. Survey of the management of genital herpes in general practice. Int J STD AIDS 1996;7(3);206-211
    “In a questionnaire survey of the management and treatment of genital herpes in the community by general practitioners (GPs) in 16 UK cities considered to have good access to genitourinary services, the mean number of cases seen per GP in the previous 12 months was 1.37 for first episodes and 0.96 cases for recurrent episode genital herpes.
  9. Stanberry LR, Bernstien DI, Kit S, Myers MG. Genital Reinfection After Recovery from Initial Genital Infection with Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 in Guinea Pigs J Infect Dis. (1986) 153 (6): 1055-1061.
  10. Patel R. An overview of herpes simplex.  SPHERE 2010;25(3):8-9
    “Diaries show that recognition of disease protects partners.”
  11. Anna Wald, MD, MPH; Andria G. M. Langenberg, MD; Katherine Link, MS; Allen E. Izu, MS; Rhoda Ashley, PhD; Terri Warren, ARNP; Stephen Tyring, MD, PhD; John M. Douglas, Jr, MD; Lawrence Corey, MD Effect of Condoms on Reducing the Transmission of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 From Men to Women JAMA. 2001;285(24):3100-3106. doi:10.1001/jama.285.24.3100
  12. Wald A. (2004) Herpes simplex virus type 2 transmission: risk factors and virus shedding. Herpes 11(Suppl. 3), 130A-137A.
    “In at least 70% of cases, transmission occurs when the infected partner has no symptoms (i.e. asymptomatic shedding), and they may even be unaware that they have the infection. Although men and women shed the virus equally, women are more susceptible to acquiring it.”
  13. Phipps W, Saracino M, Magaret A, Selke S, Remington M, Huang M, Warren T, Casper C, Corey L, Wald A. Persistent Genital Herpes Simplex Virus-2 Shedding Years Following the First Clinical Episode. J Infect Dis 2011;203 2): 180-187.
  14. Crespi CM, Cumberland WG, Wald A, Corey L, Blower S. Longitudinal study of herpes simplex virus type 2 infection using viral dynamic modelling Sex Transm Infect 2007;83:359-364
    This reports the reduction in asymptomatic shedding in two years.
  15. BASHH and RCOG: Management of Genital Herpes in Pregnancy. 17/10/2014–new-information-published/
  16. accessed 26-1-24
  17.  accessed 26-1-24

Health care information about herpes you can trust. The Information Standard. Certified Member.This page was written under the Information Standard rules.
Issue date: January 2017 Reviewed 26-1-2024
Sources used to create this information are available: contact HVA on 020 7607 9661 or emailing [email protected]. We welcome your feedback on our information resources and whether you found them helpful. Email [email protected] with your comments.
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