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Genital herpes facts

Genital herpes facts

Most people who have genital herpes do not know they have it

Signs and symptoms

  • Most people only have mild symptoms or symptoms they do not think could be herpes
  • If symptoms occur, they usually begin within 1-2 weeks of infection
  • Blisters in the genital or anal area
  • Genital or anal itching or irritation
  • Pain or trouble peeing
  • Swelling and soreness in genital area
  • Cuts or sores in genitals or anal area
  • Flu-like symptoms (fever, sore throat, swollen glands)


  • Oral, anal or vaginal sex
  • Infected mother to baby at vaginal birth


  • Abstain from oral, anal and vaginal sex.
  • Use condoms/barriers consistently and correctly during oral, anal or vaginal sex.
  • Maintain a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested for herpes and is not infected.
  • Get early treatment for STDs.
  • If someone has herpes, taking medication daily can reduce the risk of giving it to partners; however, this is not 100% effective.


  • See a health care provider for exam and tests to figure out the best treatment.
  • There is no cure for herpes. Anti-viral medicines can prevent and shorten outbreaks. Medicine may lower the risk of giving herpes to others.

If not treated...

  • Can increase risk for getting HIV
  • Recurrent, painful genital sores
  • Infections in newborns if not treated during pregnancy

If you have genital herpes...

  • Refrain from sex (oral, anal or vaginal sex) if there are symptoms.
  • Learn about herpes and get support from local groups or websites.
  • Use condoms/barriers consistently and correctly during oral, anal or vaginal sex.
  • Seek medical care including STD tests.
  • Discuss the best course of treatment with a health care provider.
  • Notify recent sex partners that they were exposed to herpes and talk to all new partners about it.
  • Consider taking medication to prevent giving herpes to others.
  • If pregnant, get tested for STDs and HIV.


For patients:

For King County health care providers: