Genital Herpes Issues and Your Family
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD), therefore,
people with genital herpes generally do not transmit the infection to their children. However, although rare, it is
possible to spread the genital herpes virus without sexual contact. To follow are some facts about herpes simplex
you should know, along with steps you can take to prevent the transmission of the herpes virus to your children.
Protecting Your Family
By being responsible about your personal hygiene and being careful during outbreaks the risk of
transmitting the herpes virus to your children is very low. However, there are some general things you can do to
prevent spreading the herpes virus.
Preventing the spread of Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1)
- It may be wise
to avoid sharing a drinking cup, cigarette, or lipstick if you have a cold sore.
- Avoid kissing
your infant or child if you have a cold sore.
Preventing the spread of Herpes Simplex Virus-2 (HSV-2)
- It may be wise
to avoid sharing bath towels if you have genital herpes symptoms. Washing towels, underwear, and other
intimate articles with regular soap or detergent will effectively kill the herpes virus. No special
antiviral disinfectants are necessary.
- Avoid touching
herpes sores or other physical signs of genital herpes and be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after
contact with the physical genital herpes lesions.
Most often reasonable personal hygiene is all that is necessary to
protect your family from the herpes virus.
Special Precautions for Newborns
Serious and widespread infection can occur if a newborn is infected with the herpes virus, so it is
important to be cautious about the spread of the herpes virus to a newborn. By the time infants are 6 months old,
their immune systems are better able to cope with exposure to the herpes virus.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, women with active
herpes symptoms should wash their hands before and after caring for their infants. Women who have cold sores
should wear a disposable surgical mask during handling of their newborn infant until the herpes lesions have
crusted and dried. Kissing or nuzzling of the infant should be avoided until the oral lesions have cleared.
Active herpes lesions on other sites of the body should be covered while handling a baby. If you plan on
breastfeeding, please see your doctor.
It's important to realize that having genital herpes does not mean
you can't have children.
Facts About Genital Herpes
The herpes virus cannot be spread through the air like the common cold. Direct contact in a warm and
moist environment is necessary for transmission. Transmission of the herpes virus occurs when a contagious area
comes into contact with a mucous membrane such as the mouth or genitals or a crack in the skin. There are two types
of herpes viruses that can cause herpes, Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1) and Herpes Simplex Virus-2
Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1)
Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1) mainly causes oral herpes. Symptoms of HSV-1, or type 1 herpes, may
include cold sores on the face and mouth. Many type 1 herpes virus infections occur during childhood when an infant
or child is kissed by a relative or friend who has active type 1, or oral herpes (cold sores). This is common—about
50% to 80% of adults in the United States have type 1 herpes. The virus is also present in the saliva of people
with oral herpes.
Herpes Simplex Virus-2 (HSV-2)
Herpes Simplex Virus-2 (HSV-2) causes the majority of genital herpes cases. Genital herpes is
usually transmitted sexually. Other types of transmission are possible, but they are unusual. Using normal personal
hygiene such as washing your hands after you touch a herpes sore will help prevent the transmission of genital
herpes to your children.
Although HSV-1 causes the majority of oral herpes cases (cold sores)
and HSV-2 causes the majority of genital herpes cases, both of these viruses can cause oral herpes, genital
herpes, or both. Most type 1 genital herpes cases are caused by unprotected oral sex. In adults, the potential
for type 1 genital herpes may be increasing because oral sex is more common and protection (e.g., latex
barriers) is rarely used.
Outbreaks of type 1 genital herpes generally recur less frequently
than outbreaks of type 2 genital herpes. In the United States, about 30% of genital herpes cases are caused by
type 1 herpes.
Initial and Recurrent Genital Herpes