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
- 1) Beauman JG. Genital herpes: a review, Am Fam Physician 2005;72:. 1527–1534.
- 2) Bavis MP et al. Genital Herpes: Diagnosis, Treatment, and Counseling in the Adolescent Patient. The Journal for Nurse Practitioner 2009;5(6): 415-420.
- 3) Public Health England (June 2021). Managing common infections: guidance for primary care