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Genital herpes may not get the attention afforded to other STDs, but individuals are actually much more likely to receive a positive herpes 2 test than they are to contract some more commonly recognized infections. However, understanding risk factors associated with the condition may help individuals protect themselves.
How common is it?
Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 16.2 percent of the general population is infected. That works out to about one out of every six people.
Women are even more likely to carry the infection. Data indicate that about one out of five adult females between the ages of 14 and 49 carry herpes 2. However, it is more likely that an an infected male will transmit the disease to a female partner than it is for a female to pass it on to a male partner.
When is it transmitted?
Herpes 2 is generally passed from one partner to another when the infected individual is having an outbreak. During this period, the carrier will develop sores. Contact with these lesions can result in infection.
However it is still possible for a person with genital herpes to pass the infection on to their partner between outbreaks. Transmission during these times may be common, as infected individuals are more likely to engage in sexual contact during these times than they are when they have more visible symptoms.
How dangerous is genital herpes?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the main symptom of herpes 2 is painful lesions around the genitals. These cause severe discomfort.
While the disease is not fatal to adults, it can be deadly to babies born to infected mothers. For this reason, pregnant women are cautioned against sexual contact with individuals who may be infected.
Furthermore, a positive herpes 2 test puts individuals at a greater risk of becoming infected with HIV and other STDs. This can cause further complications, as herpes-related lesions are typically more severe in people with suppressed immune systems.
How can people avoid herpes 2?
As with other STDs, the best ways to avoid becoming infected are to avoid sexual contact with individuals who have not undergone herpes 2 testing and to practice safe sex.
Furthermore, the CDC says that individuals who are already infected should abstain from sex when they are experiencing an outbreak.
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