A Comprehensive Guide in Diagnosing Herpes


Many individuals are infected with the herpes simplex virus without knowing it. Most of the time, the virus does not cause any symptom.

HSV must be diagnosed by PCR (polymerase chain reaction), with a swab sample taken from the herpetic lesion. BASHH (British Association for Sexual Health and HIV) recommends this method. Alternatively, culturing (growing) the virus from a swab sample can diagnose the infection.

Blood tests, which spot antibodies to the herpes virus, must have the advantage of spotting infection in individuals who do not obtain the lesions, yet false positive rates are very high to be always utilized. However, they can tell between HSV-1 infection and HSV-2.

What Treatment Is Available?

As the virus can not be wiped out from the body, treatment takes in suppressing outbreaks, limiting their duration and severity, and cutting viral shedding.

The therapy is mainly made up of the anti-viral drugs Valaciclovir, Famciclovir, and Aciclovir. These agents work best when they are taken at the soonest time possible and are prescribed for several days at a time. Cold sore creams that can be bought over-the-counter do not contain enough amounts of Aciclovir concentrations to be effective against anal or genital herpes.

If an individual has recorded herpes, they could have provided with antiviral drugs, with directions to termination treatment once the symptoms start. This is called "episodic" therapy and is intended to reduce the duration and severity of symptoms.

Alternately, they could be provided with drugs to be instituted on an ongoing basis. This method is known as "suppressive" therapy and intends to decrease the rate of recurrences.

Check out this video on oral herpes to get a clear picture of the disease:

Herpes and Stigma

A diagnosis of herpes can have a mental impact that is directly in proportion to the severity of the condition. The media have created the notification that the infection is more serious than it is and disregarding the fact that approximately 50% the general population has one or both types of HSV.

The mere fact that herpes can be contracted sexually is recurrent and is incurable can make it a source of depression and anxiety. The following points could have helped in reassuring and alleviating fears:

1. In the US, being infected with HSV is a norm for adults.

2. Stigma towards people with genital herpes is unreasonable given both genital and oral herpes result in clinically indistinguishable infections, only very little stigma is directed at people with oral herpes.

3. The initial episode will generally be the worst – symptoms are treatable, and herpes recurrences are less serious.

4. Many individuals do not experience recurrences but, if they do, they turn out to be more uncommon over time.

5. Support is offered around caller sexual partners as well as other issues.

Prevention after Childbirth

In 1 out of 4 cases, a possible postnatal infection source is liable, frequently the mother's close relative. Efforts to inhibit postnatal HSV transmission are there before vital and advice should be provided to the mother about this.

The mother and anyone who has herpetic lesions which could be in contact with the baby, including medical personnel, must observe careful hand hygiene.

Individuals with cold sores (oral herpetic lesions) should not kiss the baby.

Performance Measures

1. When an antiviral herpes drug is utilized against a previously undiagnosed herpes episode, a swab intended for herpes PCR should be sent – target 100%.

2. In order for a deliberation on the delivery mode to be preceded with an obstetrician, there should be documentation that the obstetrician or GP have been instructed of this requirement and that the patient has been aware of this requirement – target 100%.

3. For women who suspect to have primary genital herpes during pregnancy diagnosed in obstetric or primary care services, a genitourinary doctor referral must be made (unless in labor) – target 100%.

4. Where an initial genital herpes episode diagnosis is made in the final trimester, the case of the woman should be separated between the neonatologist and obstetrician with records of the settled management – target 100%.

5. Pregnant women who have genital herpes must be provided with written details on genital herpes during pregnancy (such as the RCOG patient info leaflet) – target 90%.

Herpes Treatment during Outbreaks

Antibodies are produced 4 to 6 weeks following the first infection. Although these antibodies are HSV-1 specific or HSV-2 specific, they may offer a level of protection against other HSV variants, especially in making the symptoms milder.

For a number of people, herpes simplex virus infection will never cause symptoms. On the other hand, most will present with one or more episodes of the symptoms (sometimes so minor that they are overlooked). For some people, there will be similar, recurring episodes of blisters, that could appear in the same body part. Recurrences have a tendency to diminish over time.

Occidentally, herpes can affect the hand, fingers, throat, liver, stomach, lung, or eye. A rare case is herpes encephalitis: brain inflammation, causing nausea, headache, loss of coordination, mental changes, and seizures.