Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex virus Type I (HSV-1) and Type II (HSV-2). The Type I virus is the same one that causes cold sores on the mouth, face and lips, although it can also cause sores on the genitals. The Type II virus, however, most often causes sores on the genitals.
Herpes can spread to the genitals from a cold sore if hand washing and other hygiene precautions are not taken. Or it can be spread though oral or genital sexual contact. And be warned: The virus does not have to be in an active state -- that is, blisters do not have to be present -- for a partner to become infected [source: NLM].
The virus can also be passed during the preactive state, when there is itching or tingling in the area where the sores generally appear. Sometimes, the virus can be passed along before the infected person is even aware that the virus is present. What's more, saliva also carries the virus [source: NLM].
The first episode usually starts within a couple weeks of exposure, and the initial onset can be pretty bad, including an initial round and then a second round of painful sores, flulike symptoms, fever and swollen glands. Sometimes the symptoms are mild, however, and appear as little more than insect bites or a rash.
Once you have genital herpes, you have it for life [source: NLM]. Luckily, it spends most of its life, and yours, dormant. But, like cold sores, genital herpes recurs, often up to four or five times a year. There are a few home remedies that can help you through an episode, however. Head over to the next page to learn more.
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