How common is genital herpes?
The herpes virus itself is very common, with estimates of up to 80% of us catching at least one strain in our lifetimes. Genital herpes is thought to present in a quarter of sexually active adults.
It's spread by direct contact with the virus during an 'active phase'. This is the time just before, during and just after the rash is seen. The 'shedding phase' comprises very little of the virus' life. During this time, skin-to-skin contact carries a low chance of spreading the virus from one person to another. The virus can still be spread from kissing, oral sex or anal sex.
Infection between partners is around 10% a year if they are using protection. There is a low-risk of spreading the disease from mother to baby during pregnancy, but it may be associated with complications if it's not managed at the time. Medical consultation is advised during pregnancy.
For people who are immune-compromised, herpes may cause inflammation in the brain, eyes and elsewhere. It is worth noting that this is the exception rather than the rule.
Read on to find out if there's a cure for herpes.