HSVI & HSVII: The two viruses are not as simplistic as their names suggests. There is a lot of misinformation out there about these two viruses, so let’s explore the facts.
All strains of herpes are extremely contagious: saliva, sores and skin-to-skin contact is how they are typically spread. These viruses are known to “shed,” releasing small, trace particles of themselves, even when the host is asymptomatic. This strain can lay dormant for years before presenting any symptoms. There is currently no cure for either HSVI or HSVII, they are treatable with antiviral medications. HSVI – Oral Herpes, HSVII – Genital Herpes.
Herpes Simplex I
Oral herpes is very contagious. Most people who have this form of herpes obtained it as a child from being kissed by relatives. The cold sores people get about their lips and face are beyond their control, but when they do have them, they should be cautious to not kiss anyone. Do you think there is a potential to find oral herpes in a person’s genital region? Yes, we absolutely find HSVI in the genital area of others, even though we typically find HSVII there. Why would you think we find HSVI where HSVII is normally found? Oral sex, which means oral engagement between a person’s mouth and another person’s genitals.
Herpes Simplex II
Genital herpes is also very contagious. This form of herpes generally affects the genital area. Two-thirds of cases of genital herpes are asymptomatic. Because much of the genitals are still uncovered with condom use, genital herpes can still be contracted with condom use during an outbreak. During an outbreak, proper condom use reduces risk by up to 30%. It is always important to know your status and be engaged with care should you need it. The CDC reports that more than one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 have genital herpes. It is that common. The herpes virus can also be shed from skin without a visible sore.
The first things to look for during the first outbreak of herpes are fever, swollen lymph nodes, chills, muscle aches and headache. Outbreaks can have sores, pain in in the genital area, mouth or anus, shooting pain in legs or buttocks, which occurs hours or days before a herpetic lesion eruption.
Each year there are a reported two million HSVI diagnosis and three million HSVII diagnosis. Unfortunately, there can be unnecessary shame, stigma and embarrassment with a herpes diagnosis, but since this is so communicable, it is vitally important people get tested if they believe they have been exposed or have had unprotected or risky sex.
Lowering Your Risk
If you are in a relationship with someone who has genital herpes, there are ways of lowering your risk:
Talk with your partner, find out if they take antiviral medications. Intimacy is more than physical interactions; it can include personal health information. If your partner does not have access, refer them to the county health clinic where they do treat people for HSVII with or without insurance.
Avoid engaging in sex, vaginal, anal or oral, when your partner has symptoms or feels like a flare-up is occurring.
Use condoms and lubricant appropriately to further reduce your risk when having sex.
Use dental dams for oral sex .
Use female condoms for vaginal and receptive anal sex.
Remember to make a full panel STD test and HIV test a part of your annual healthcare examination. Please feel free to send your sexual health questions to me at email@example.com.
I look forward to hearing from you soon! QCBN
By Hedda Fay
Hedda Fay is the community outreach and program developer for Northland Cares. In a former life, she worked in law enforcement and public mental health. Her passion today is educating people about their sexual health and prevention services to the community. Northland Cares is located at 3112 Clearwater Drive, Ste. A, in Prescott. For more information, call 928-776-4612.