Genital Herpes

What is it?

A viral infection of the genital areas. It can also infect the area around the mouth.

How many people get it in the US?

An estimated 1 million new infections each year, with about 45 million people already infected.


Most people have no symptoms. Herpes 1 typically causes cold sores and fever blisters on the mouth; Herpes 2 typically causes genital sores or blisters. But both viruses can cause sores in either area. A herpes outbreak can start as red bumps and then turn into painful blisters or sores. During the first outbreak, it can also lead to flu-like symptoms, (like a fever, headaches, and swollen glands).

How it's spread

Through vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It can also be passed through skin-to-skin sexual contact, kissing, and rarely, from mother to child during childbirth.


There is no cure for herpes. The virus stays in the body and may cause recurrent outbreaks. Medications can help treat symptoms, reduce the frequency of outbreaks, and reduce the likelihood of spreading it to sex partners.

Possible consequences if left untreated

Increased risk for infection of other STDs, including HIV. Some people with herpes may get recurrent sores. Passing herpes from mother to newborn is rare, but an infant with herpes can become very ill.

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