herpes simplex (genital infection)

Last edited 07/2021 and last reviewed 07/2021

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by infection with herpes simplex virus type II, although up to 40% may be caused by type I (transferred via cold sores).

  • HSV is spread through skin-to-skin contact or direct mucocutaneous contact

The incubation period is 3 days to 2 weeks after exposure

It is a disease in which there has been a huge increase in prevalence in the past decade, the reasons for which are debatable.

Complications occur more often in men, who also suffer more with symptoms.

Recurrent attacks are the rule rather than the exception.

Key points (3):

  • Advise: saline bathing, analgesia, topical lidocaine for pain, and discuss transmission
  • First episode: treat within 5 days if new lesions or systemic symptoms, and refer to GUM
  • Recurrent: self-care if mild, or immediate short course antiviral treatment, or suppressive therapy if more than 6 episodes per year