Health31 Aug 2010 03:15 pm
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). Most ‘cold sores’ are caused by HSV-1m while genital herpes is usually caused by HSV-2. In recent years, it has been reported that as many as one in five American adults is affected by the genital herpes virus. However, most individuals are asymptomatic or only manifest minimal signs or symptoms from either type of herpes infections.
When signs do occur, they typically appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals or rectum. The blisters break, leaving tender ulcers (sores) that may take two to four weeks to heal the first time they occur. Typically, another outbreak can appear weeks or months after the first, but it almost always is less severe and shorter than the first outbreak. Although the infection can stay in the body indefinitely, the number of outbreaks tends to decrease over a period of years.
Until recently, serological tests for antibodies to HSV were rarely useful to diagnosis and not routinely used in clinical practice, because the older blood test could not differentiate between antibodies generated in response to HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection. However, the new Immuno dot glycoprotein G-specific (IgG) HSV test is more that 98% specific at discriminating HSV-1 from HSV-2. These newer tests detect IgG antibodies directed against the cell wall protein specific for HSV-1 or HSV-2. However, like all tests, the type-specific tests are not perfect. It takes about three to six weeks for individuals to develop detectable antibodies for herpes simplex. Virtually everyone will have detectable antibodies by 16 weeks.
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