Understandably, for many persons, a new diagnosis of genital herpes may lead to feelings of shock, shame, guilt or embarrassment. Often times, patients are unaware of how common this virus is among the general population. Some studies have shown up to 1 in 5 of sexually active people have been infected with the Herpes virus, whether they’re aware of it or not.
Genital herpes is a treatable condition. Aside from being sexually transmitted, much of the negative stigma around this infection seems to come from the fact that you don’t ‘get rid of’ it, and that recurrences can happen. Herpes is a viral infection (like HPV,) and though the symptoms (a cold sore in the case of oral herpes, or a genital sore in the case of genital herpes) can be treated, the virus itself remains present in our blood stream indefinitely. Even in its dormant state (no symptoms present,) the virus remains detectable by blood test, and can lead to partner-to-partner spread of infection (from asymptomatic shedding of the virus) when no detectable ‘sore’ is present. Gonorrhea and chlamydia, different from the Herpes virus and HPV, are bacteria or bacterial-like infections that are cured with treatment, with no detectable bacteria remaining after adequate therapy (unless the individual is ‘re-infected’.)
Though a diagnosis of genital herpes can be an embarrassing nuisance, it’s actually a newborn baby who’s at the most serious risks from a genital herpes infection. A newborn baby infected with genital herpes is at risk for multi-organ infection, that can be fatal if left untreated. If you are pregnant, with a known history of genital herpes, it’s important to let your healthcare providers know that information. Certain measures (anti-viral medications in the last month of your pregnancy, and performing a Cesarean section if active lesions are present at the time of labor) should be taken, to decrease the risk of spread of infection to your newborn baby.