|Other names||Anogenital herpesviral infection, herpes genitalis|
|An outbreak of genital herpes affecting the vulva|
|Symptoms||None, small blisters that break open to form painful ulcers, flu-like symptoms|
|Complications||Aseptic meningitis, increased risk of HIV/AIDS if exposed, neonatal herpes|
|Usual onset||2–12 days after exposure|
|Duration||Up to 4 weeks (first outbreak)|
|Causes||Herpes simplex virus (HSV-1, HSV-2)|
|Diagnostic method||Testing lesions, blood tests for antigen|
|Differential diagnosis||Syphilis, chancroid, molluscum contagiosum, hidradenitis suppurativa|
|Prevention||Not having sex, using condoms, only having sex with someone who is not infected|
|Frequency||846 million (2015)|
Genital herpes is an infection by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) of the genitals. Most people either have no or mild symptoms and thus do not know they are infected. When symptoms do occur, they typically include small blisters that break open to form painful ulcers. Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, aching, or swollen lymph nodes, may also occur. Onset is typically around 4 days after exposure with symptoms lasting up to 4 weeks. Once infected further outbreaks may occur but are generally milder.
The disease is typically spread by direct genital contact with the skin surface or secretions of someone who is infected. This may occur during sex, including anal and oral sex. Sores are not required for transmission to occur. The risk of spread between a couple is about 7.5% over a year. HSV is classified into two types, HSV-1 and HSV-2. While historically HSV-2 was more common, genital HSV-1 has become more common in the developed world. Diagnosis may occur by testing lesions using either PCR or viral culture or blood tests for specific antibodies.
Efforts to prevent infection include not having sex, using condoms, and only having sex with someone who is not infected. Once infected, there is no cure. Antiviral medications may, however, prevent outbreaks or shorten outbreaks if they occur. The long-term use of antivirals may also decrease the risk of further spread.
In 2015 about 846 million people (12% of the world population) had genital herpes. In the United States, more than one-in-six people have HSV-2. Women are more commonly infected than men. Rates of disease caused by HSV-2 have decreased in the United States between 1990 and 2010. Complications may rarely include aseptic meningitis, an increased risk of HIV/AIDS if exposed to HIV-positive individuals, and spread to the baby during childbirth resulting in neonatal herpes.
Genital herpes is common in the United States. More than one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 years have genital herpes.