STDs affects one sixth of the U.S. population

| February 9, 2017 | 1 Comment
Army health providers are urging community members to educate themselves about preventing the spread of herpes. (Courtesy photo)

Army health providers are urging community members to educate themselves about preventing the spread of herpes. (Courtesy photo)

Dr. Grace S. Chen
Tripler Army Medical Center

HONOLULU — Genital herpes affects one out of six people, ages 14-49, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by either herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1) or herpes simplex 2 (HSV-2). It is spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has herpes.

Someone may not know they have herpes virus because they may not have a visible sore, but they can still spread the herpes, since it can be released through their skin.


Clinical facts

Genital herpes usually appears as blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The blisters burst and leave painful sores that take a few weeks to heal. The first time someone has an outbreak, they also have flu-like symptoms (fever, body aches and swollen glands).

If you touch your sores or the fluid from the sores, you can transfer the herpes to another part of your body. If you do touch the sores, wash your hands to avoid spreading the infection.

Repeated outbreaks of genital herpes may occur, especially during the first year. The following outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first one. The infection will stay in your body forever, but the outbreaks may decrease in frequency as time passes.

In the United States, oral herpes (cold sores and/or fever blisters around mouth) is usually caused by HSV-1. Most people are infected with HSV-1 during childhood (from a kiss from a relative).

More than half of the population in the U.S. has HSV-1, even though they do not have signs or symptoms. HSV-1 can be spread from mouth to genitals through oral sex. Some cases of genital herpes are therefore caused by HSV-1.


You can avoid STDs by refraining from have vaginal, anal or oral sex. If you are sexually active, you can decrease your risk of getting herpes by making sure your sexual partner has tested negative for STDs. A latex condom can also prevent STD prevention.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes. There are some medications that can prevent or shorten the course of an outbreak. One can be taken daily and makes it less likely that you will pass the infection to your sexual partner.

If you are pregnant with genital herpes, it is important to let your doctor know. It can increase the risk of miscarriage and prematurity.

Genital herpes can also be passed to your child. If you have herpes symptoms at the time of delivery, a C-section is done to prevent the spread of herpes to your child. Children who are born with herpes (congenital herpes) may have lesions on their skin, eyes and mouth.

Other symptoms include an infection of the brain (encephalitis), which can cause seizures, spasticity, blindness, learning disabilities, psychomotor retardation and death.

Point of Contact

For more information about this and other sexually transmitted diseases, please speak to your primary care manager at (808) 433-2778.

(Editor’s note: Dr. Chen is an emergency physician at TAMC.)  

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Category: Health

Comments (1)

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  1. monica coben says:

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