Genital Herpes FAQs

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2).

If you’re concerned about herpes or other STDs, talk with your Mercy doctor about testing. Our physicians and caregivers understand the sensitivity of this issue and offer compassionate, supportive care.

How do you get genital herpes?

Genital herpes is spread by sexual activity with someone who has the disease. You can get herpes if you’re exposed to:

  • Herpes sores
  • Saliva of someone with herpes
  • Genital secretions of a sexual partner with herpes
  • Skin in the oral or genital areas of an infected person

You can also get herpes from someone with no visible sores or who doesn’t know they’re infected. However, you can’t get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, swimming pools, or from touching objects like utensils, soap or towels.

What does genital herpes look like?

Many people with genital herpes have no visible signs. Others may develop small, painful blisters and ulcers in the genital area that itch, burn, ooze or bleed. Swollen lymph nodes, fever and body aches can also occur with herpes.

How do you treat genital herpes?

While there’s no cure for herpes, medications can prevent or shorten outbreaks. One type of medication can be taken daily, offering added protection from spreading the virus.

How common is genital herpes?

It’s a common and highly contagious STD affecting more than one in six Americans ages 14-49. 

How long does a genital herpes outbreak last?

The first outbreak is typically the worst and lasts two to four weeks. Flare-ups tend to be shorter and less painful, lasting three to seven days.

Find a Urologist

Mercy has experienced urologists across most of our communities. 

Find a urologist near you.