Herpes Essay, Research Paper
Herpes has been around for a very long time. So long that it very likely predates the human species. “Herpes” derives its name from the Greek word herpein, which means to creep or crawl. The physicians of Greece, treating herpes over 2,000 years ago, described herpes of the mouth and herpetic sores in the groin, which traveled around the flank and genital regions. Throughout history many a physician attempted to understand the herpes virus. Due to similarities amongst various herpes viruses, it was difficult to diagnose which virus was responsible, as symptoms varied yet remained similar. Today herpes has become one of the most common viral infections, found in every social and economic class. Modern technology has further enabled us to classify the various herpes viruses. Research in the late 60’s revealed herpes of the mouth, Herpes I, and herpes of the genital region, Herpes II, as two very distinct herpes viruses.
There are two herpes viruses. Herpes type one is commonly called cold sores or fever blisters. These are found near the mouth. Gingivostomatitis, another form of herpes usually caused by HSV-1 is characterized by lesions on the inside of the mouth and throat (small painful ulcerations). Type two is called Genital Herpes generally occur below the waist. For women, symptoms show up in the vulva, vagina, and cervix. For men, symptoms generally show up on the penis (the foreskin or penile shaft), and surrounding genitalia area.
Herpes is spread by direct skin-to-skin contact. Unlike a flu virus that you can get through the air, herpes spreads by direct contact, that is, directly from the site of infection to the site of contact. For example, if you have a cold sore and kiss someone, you can transfer the virus to his or her mouth. Similarly, if you have active genital herpes and have vaginal or anal intercourse, you can give your partner genital herpes. Finally, if you have a cold sore and put your mouth on your partners genitals (oral sex), you can give your partner genital herpes.
Herpes is most easily spread when a sore is present, but it is also often spread at other times too. Some people notice itching, tingling or other sensations before they see anything on their skin. These are called “Prodromal Symptoms” and they warn that virus may be present on the skin. Herpes is most likely to be spread from the time these first symptoms are noticed until the area is completely healed and the skin looks normal again. Sexual contact (oral, vaginal, or anal) is very risky during this time.
Sometimes those who know they are infected spread the virus between outbreaks, when no signs or symptoms are present. This is called “Asymptomatic Transmission. Research also shows that people who don t know they are infected often spread herpes simplex infections. These people may have symptoms so mild they don’t notice them at all or else don’t recognize them as herpes. Many genital herpes infections are spread from persons who are asymptomatic “Shedders” of the virus.
For those who recognize their symptoms, asymptomatic transmission appears to be far less likely than spreading the virus when lesions are present. Many couples have had sexual relations for years without transmitting herpes. Some simply avoid having sexual contact when signs or symptoms are present. Others use condoms, jellies or other protection between outbreaks to help protect against asymptomatic shedding.
Also remember that new information has come to the forefront, which is very troubling. The New England Journal of Medicine reported on October 16, 1997 that only 10% of individuals who tested positive for Herpes II were aware they had the disease. The risk of catching herpes after a single sexual contact with an infected partner is not known, but more frequent contact with someone carrying genital herpes results in a greater than 50 percent chance of the virus spreading to you.
If you believe you are having an outbreak, this is the best time and the only time,
you can know for sure whether what you have is in fact herpes. The next step is to get check out by your private doctor if you can see him right away. If you don’t have a personal doctor, then visit your health care facility as a walk-in or emergency patient in order to be tested as quickly as possible.
What they are going to do is to take a viral culture if you have symptoms present. Rubbing a swab over the lesions to collect virus does this. This is a very easy and painless process. Additional tests can be performed to determine if you have herpes and further indicate which herpes virus you are dealing with. These tests are called Cell Culture Test, Antigen Test and a Pap smear for the women. Overall the most important thing is to be tested! Signs of herpes, or symptoms can vary from person to person. However, the average person can generally recognize his or her symptoms. They stand as a useful tool to stay outbreak free. But the preliminary symptoms are called prodromal symptoms.
These symptoms are obvious symptoms and are called outbreaks.
Outbreaks appear as:
In Herpes I – we see visible signs in the form of cold sores or fever blisters on the mouth.
In Herpes II – we see visible signs as clusters of blisters that break and crust to form scabs in the genital area.
Symptoms are very much like reading your temperature from a thermometer. Most of the time we are in the normal range, outbreak free. Then suddenly the temperature rises a few degrees and we are alerted that things are heating by experiencing prodromal symptoms. Hopefully, before things get too hot we can do something to ward off (suppress) an outbreak. If we are unsuccessful in warding off an outbreak, the outbreak cycle begins. This healing cycle can last anywhere from a few days to two weeks.
Why are prodromal symptoms important? These are the first signs that an outbreak is brewing things are heating up. Prodromal symptoms appear as a skin sensation, such as burning, prickling, itching, or tingling, with no apparent physical cause. Tingling is the most common of prodromal symptoms for both Herpes I and II.
This again is the time to get tested! So be smart and responsible and get tested.