How is genital herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection prevented?

Updated: Feb 27, 2019
  • Author: J Michael Klatte, MD; Chief Editor: Russell W Steele, MD  more...
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Genital herpes simplex virus infections are among the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the United States. A growing number of adolescents are infected with the virus. Prevention of sexual transmission of herpes simplex virus is difficult because most transmission occurs during subclinical viral shedding. Avoiding contact with individuals excreting the virus in saliva or genital secretions is difficult because they are often asymptomatic.

Oral antiviral therapy started at the first symptom or sign of genital herpes simplex virus disease reduces (but may not eliminate) the duration of lesions, symptoms, and viral shedding in persons with recurrent genital herpes. [68, 77, 78]

Daily suppressive treatment with oral antiviral agents reduces the frequency of recurrences and viral shedding in persons with genital herpes simplex virus infection. [49, 77] It may also improve psychosocial functioning.

In 2016, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended against routine serologic screening for genital herpes simplex virus infection in asymptomatic adolescents and adults, including those who are pregnant. [79, 80]

Promote the use of condoms.

Patients with history of genital herpes simplex virus infection may have been exposed to or are at risk of continued exposure to other STIs. Appropriate evaluation, counseling, and education are needed for all patients.

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