You may have seen articles in newspapers/online about ‘herpes in astronauts’. As usual they misrepresent. So if you haven’t, don’t bother to search – they are uniformly misleading. Not just in Metro which you might expect, but even the Independent got it wrong. As we have written before, journalists only know about one type of herpes and assume the scientists are writing about genital herpes, whether they are or not!
As you might expect, any condition that reactivates when a body is under stress is likely to show up in astronauts. Now, after 60 years of men-in-space, scientists decided to measure the amounts of 4 different herpes viruses in saliva and urine. In about half the astronauts, they found shingles and two kinds of glandular fever present during space flight. In conclusion, it is useful for the astronauts to know that they should not kiss vulnerable people when they land, as the glandular fever-like viruses will continue to be present in saliva for up to a month after a long flight.
the Frontiers in Microbiology, Feb 2019, reported:
“Currently, 47 out of the 89 (53%) astronauts from
shuttle-flights and 14 out of 23 (61%)
astronauts from ISS [longer] missions shed
one or more herpes viruses in saliva/urine samples.”
There are 8 herpes viruses that humans may have, including chickenpox/ shingles (VZV) and several glandular fever-like illnesses EBV and CMV.
Marian Nicholson (HVA director) and two members, Jess and Sylvia, were interviewed for 20 minutes by Jane Garvey. This was for Friday 22nd February’s Woman’s hour. Then the editing reduced this to 12 minutes. This shows that they liked it, because originally we were told we’d only have 7 minutes! Hear it on BBC Sounds – at the 6 minutes point. We did our best to destigmatise the issue. Sylvia and Jess were brilliant (thanks ladies) and talked about how their partners were OK with it. Marian talked about how very, very common it is. Listeners have told us the editor did a good job! If you would talk about your experience to help get rid of the stigma, let us know. It could be in print media, on radio or even TV! Email [email protected]
Death from neonatal herpes is rare and screening mothers is unlikely to help.
The tragic deaths of several babies from neonatal herpes infections have been widely reported this year. Despite scary headlines, it is rare for babies to be affected: nature has ensured that new-born babies are protected. Most medical professionals never see a case of a baby with herpes in their entire career.
Herpes is a highly unusual cause of neonatal death
Neonatal herpes infections are serious but rare. Total UK infant mortality from all causes is about one third of 1% in the first year. Death from herpes simplex infections affects 0.0016 of babies, – a tiny proportion of these deaths.
Each year, Public Health England publishes the number of new cases of genital herpes – and all STIs – diagnosed in clinics. (More will be diagnosed by GPs but these are not counted.)
This year, for the fifth year in a row, the total number of new cases of genital herpes has gone down: 32,737. And by the way, the total number of people accessing this STI clinics’ service continues to rise year on year.
In two groups, only, has the rate gone up a tiny bit: females in the 25-34 year age group, it is up slightly at 6,781 and for men and women over 66, a few more have been diagnosed each year – but only 200 men and 159 women!
For other conditions, the situation is more troubling: both syphilis and gonorrhoea are up. Both can be very serious if untreated, and gonorrhoea is getting almost impossible to treat as it becomes resistant to all antibiotics. (And there are no new antibiotics ‘in the pipeline’.) So use a condom with all new sexual partners until you have both been given the all-clear at a sexual health screening.
Remember that to get a diagnosis of herpes, you have to been seen immediately, while the spot is there.
The government has passed responsibility for sexual health services over to local government to commission (for the cheapest possible price). It has been noticed that almost everywhere services are getting less accessible. Services have moved out of hospitals into the community. But sometimes this means that people don’t know where to go. We hear people on the helpline telling us how hard it is to be seen, no appointment system, you have to wait ages. At least in some places (e.g. Burrell Street, London) they give you numbered tickets and tell yo to come back in an hour or so.
If you are not satisfied – be heard!
If you want to comment, there is a template letter on this page. (Takes you to a different website) Or, more easily, you can sign the petition to maintain the sexual health services.
The helpline gets a lot of calls every (week) day and here are some of the most common questions:
“Will I transmit my genital herpes to my child?”
The answer to that is of course, “no you cannot – it is transmitted directly skin-to-skin with the affected area so clearly a mum with a cold sore does need to take care, but a mum with a genital sore is not going to infect her child with her genital herpes.
“I had sex last night and now I have an outbreak, will I have infected my partner with genital herpes?”
The answer is there are two possibilities. One: if your body was planning on having an outbreak today, then possibly you were infectious last night and the partner might have caught it. Two: (and this is much more likely) the late night or the friction has triggered the outbreak, and you would not have had it if you had not had sex. So you were not infectious last night. By the way, if sex triggers outbreaks, use a sexual lubricant with silicone.
“Who did I get herpes from?”
It is important to remember that a person can have their first outbreak of genital herpes many years after catching it. So, often you cannot know for sure where it came from.
“Is this (…long description…) herpes?”
We cannot diagnose on the phone. Each of the symptoms of a primary outbreak of herpes can be linked to many other illnesses. So, the ‘flu-like symptoms’ might actually be flu. The ‘itchiness that comes before the blisters appear’ might be caused by anything from allergy to washing powder, to eczema. The ache in the leg might be a strained muscle… Get diagnosed at a clinic.
Sign the petition to maintain the sexual health services. Since the government REMOVED sexual health from the NHS and asked local councils to provide it, the standard of services (access times, staffing, etc) has gone down.
You need to show that members of the public do want the provision of anonymous, easily accessible sexual health clinics. Sign now!
We have been following the development of Theravax from Rational Vaccines. This is the work of Dr Bill Halford’s team. (I recently spoke to their business manager on the phone.) This is an interesting vaccine, because it is different from the others currently being worked on and it is more like the successful chickenpox vaccine. Continue reading Potential vaccine?
If you get cold sores, you might like to try the new cold sores treatment with melissa. The researcher is keen to have more people to try this new, improved formula – and report back to him. A man who tested an earlier formula is totally thrilled at the results: much better than anything else he’s tried, and he’s tried a lot of different products!