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How is genital herpes transmitted?

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Updated December 04, 2003

How does someone get genital herpes?

Most people get genital herpes by having sex with someone who is having a herpes outbreak. This outbreak means that HSV is active. When active, the virus usually causes visible sores in the genital area. The sores cast off (shed) viruses that can infect another person. Sometimes, however, a person can have an outbreak and have no visible sores at all. People often get genital herpes by having sexual contact with others who don't know they are infected or who are having outbreaks of herpes without any sores.

A person with genital herpes also can infect a sexual partner during oral sex. The virus is spread only rarely, if at all, by touching objects such as a toilet seat or hot tub.

Genital Herpes FAQS Table of Contents

Reprinted from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health

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