Stages of Herpes

Knowing the stages of herpes can help in understanding how this virus is spread. Of those infected with this virus 80% do not know they carry the disease. This is why it is so important to educate yourself in order to help prevent the spread of this virus.

These stages pertain to both HSV-1 and HSV-2. Type 1 is usually referred to as cold sores that appear around the mouth and eyes (ocular herpes). Type 2 generally affects the genital area. The viruses can be carried in bodily fluids such as saliva, semen, fluid in the female genital tract or in fluid from the herpes sore. The infection enters the body within three days to two weeks after first contact. The direct contact of a blister or sore during an outbreak is when there is the highest risk to spread the infection.

Prodrome Stage: This is the very beginning of the virus stage. This includes the burning, itching, tingling feeling you experience as the onset of an outbreak. You may also experience flu-like symptoms that include fever and achy feeling.

Infection Stage: Red bumps will begin to form followed by the formation of blisters. These blisters then break open to expose an ulcer like wound which then scabs over. The scab will then fall off to reveal healthy skin underneath.

Latent Stage: The virus begins to replicate once it comes in contact with the mucosal surfaces or skin wounds. The virus is then transported within nerve cells to their roots where it remains in its latent stage, meaning inactive, for some period of time. During this stage of herpes, the virus is not transmissible.

Shedding Stage: The herpes virus does not stay latent and at some point it will begin to replicate again without causing symptoms which is called shedding. During this stage the virus is transmissible through bodily fluids and can infect other people. This is the most dangerous stage of all as this is when the virus is undetectable with the high risk of spreading. This stage of herpes accounts for about a third of all HSV-2 infections.

Preventing the transmission of this disease is very difficult during the latent stage but there are ways to reduce the risk through medications. Reducing the risk of transmission during an outbreak is a little easier as there are precautions that can be taken. It is known that these two viruses can be spread from one part of the body to the other. Take extreme caution by washing your hands with warm water and soap after touching the infected area. Avoid facial and sexual contact with both of these viruses.

There is no treatment that can cure herpes, but topical treatments and antiviral medications can shorten and prevent outbreaks during the period of time the person takes the medication. In addition, daily suppressive therapy for symptomatic herpes can reduce transmission to partners.