What Is Herpes 2?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Herpes 2 is a member of the herpes virus family which is usually linked with incidence of genital herpes. It is also known as herpes simplex virus type two, or HSV-2. Around 20% of the population at any given time may be carrying herpes 2, with many carriers remaining asymptomatic. The frequency of asymptomatic infection is one reason why regular screenings for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a very good idea, to ensure that any infections are caught before people have a chance to spread them to their partners.

Individuals with genital herpes are able to donate blood as long as they are feeling well.
Individuals with genital herpes are able to donate blood as long as they are feeling well.

The other form of HSV is herpes 1. Herpes 1 is usually associated with oral herpes, although it can also infect the genitals, while herpes 2 is linked with genital outbreaks. In fact, HSV-1 and HSV-2 are very similar genetically, with HSV-2 tending to carry more social stigma because people think of it specifically as an STI. Both infections tend to be mild in nature, with asymptomatic infection being highly common, and for this reason, it is sometimes difficult to determine the source of the infection, as it may be diagnosed weeks, months, or years after infectious contact.

Condoms may not necessarily protect against genital herpes.
Condoms may not necessarily protect against genital herpes.

People can contract herpes 2 through intimate contact with infected individuals, or through their mothers, in the case of neonatal HSV-2. In many people, the virus causes no symptoms. Other people experience distinctive lesions which break out along the genitals in the form of fluid-filled vesicles which eventually burst and scab over. People may experience recurrent outbreaks, or random outbreaks which occur infrequently, with stress being a contributing factor to the severity and frequency of outbreaks.

Herpes 2 can be contracted through intimate contact with infected individuals.
Herpes 2 can be contracted through intimate contact with infected individuals.

Herpes 2 is not curable. However, it can be managed with medications which are designed to reduce the frequency of outbreaks, and to make outbreaks shorter and less painful. These medications can also reduce the risk of asymptomatic transmission, which will help people avoid spreading the virus to uninfected partners. Doctors can provide a prescription for such medications after evaluating a patient's condition and conducting tests to confirm that the patient has HSV-2.

The initial onset of a herpes 2 infection may cause mild flu-like symptoms.
The initial onset of a herpes 2 infection may cause mild flu-like symptoms.

People with the disease should avoid intimate contact with uninfected partners when they are experiencing outbreaks. When sores are not present, barrier protection can be used to reduce the risk of passing the virus on, and the use of medications to manage infection is strongly recommended. People should also not assume that they are herpes free if they have never experienced lesions or outbreaks, because of the huge percentage of patients who have infections without developing herpes sores.

Antiviral creams can help manage genital herpes outbreaks.
Antiviral creams can help manage genital herpes outbreaks.
Herpes 1 is typically associated with oral herpes, although it can affect the genitals when a lesion on the mouth comes in contact with the area.
Herpes 1 is typically associated with oral herpes, although it can affect the genitals when a lesion on the mouth comes in contact with the area.
Herpes can affect the genitals.
Herpes can affect the genitals.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

letshearit

@animegal - The easiest way to spot herpes type 2 is if she is suffering from the vaginal lesions. A rash could be many things. I think she really needs to see a doctor no matter how embarrassed she may be. If it makes her feel better you could drop her off and pick her up from a clinic that is outside your normal area. When my friend had an STD scare a few years ago he went to get tested in another city. He was so worried someone would see him.

I think that herpes virus 2 needs to be taken care of right away. A doctor can give your friend medicine so she won't be so uncomfortable.

animegal

Does anyone know the easiest way to tell if you have herpes simplex type 2 without having to go for STD testing?

My roommate is been convinced her boyfriend is responsible for a herpes 2 transmission to her because he cheated on her awhile back and now she is complaining about having a rash. I would say that is a bit too much information, but we live together and she tells me everything.

I am trying to convince her it is a good idea to get the testing done for herpes simplex virus 2 but she is way too embarrassed to go to a clinic. Her boyfriend is now out of the picture, but I am afraid she's going to have some serious health consequences from his actions.

lonelygod

When I started university they had a program available where you could get screened for things like the herpes simplex 2 without needing to pay. I thought it was great to offer free screening for STDs because herpes simplex virus type 2 is so easily carried without the person knowing. It seems to me as that people get more open with their sexuality, especially in those early college years that yearly screening should be a good idea.

While I never had an STD myself a friend of mine got chlamydia from a girlfriend and didn't know it until he was screened as part of a physical. It can be tough to know what's going on in your body unless you check it out.

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