Genital Herpes

Genital Herpes is a sexually transmitted and blood-borne infection (STBBI) caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and spreads through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.

There are two types of herpes viruses:

  • Herpes Simplex 1 (the common cold sore) appears in the mouth area and can spread to the genitals through oral sex.
  • Herpes Simplex 2 is commonly found in the genital area and spreads to the mouth by oral sex.


An outbreak can vary from one sore to clusters of small blisters on the penis, scrotum, vulva (lips of the vagina), anus, or an area covered by a pair of boxer shorts. The first outbreak can be painful with symptoms such as swollen glands in the groin area and fever. The virus can spread even when there are no obvious sores or signs of infections.

Testing for genital herpes requires swabbing the visible sores. See your healthcare provider as soon as any visible signs appear or if you are concerned about being at risk of an STBBI. Symptoms usually are visible within a few weeks of being exposed to the virus.


There is no cure for herpes. Medications such as antivirals can help ease symptoms, reduce further episodes, and prevent the spread of herpes to sexual partners.


Condoms and oral dams help avoid the spread of genital herpes, but only from the area covered by the condom or oral dam.

Prevention is key to protecting yourself and your partner from STBBIs.  Click here for information about safer sex.

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Last updated: 2023-07-25