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Definition of «Genital herpes»

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Genital herpes: A viral infection transmitted through intimate contact with the moist mucous linings of the genitals. This contact can involve the mouth, the vagina or the genital skin. The herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2) enters the mucous membranes through microscopic tears. Once inside the body, HSV-2 travels to nerve roots near the spinal cord and settles there permanently. When an infected person has a herpes outbreak, the virus travels down the nerve fibers to the site of the original infection and when it reaches the skin, the classic redness and blisters occur.

Outbreaks of genital herpes are closely related to the functioning of the immune system. Women who have suppressed immune systems, either through stress, disease, or medications, have more frequent and longer-lasting outbreaks.

The antiviral drug valacyclovir (Valtrex), taken once a day, has been found to reduce the shedding of HSV-2 on genital mucosal surfaces and to reduce the rate of transmission of genital herpes among discordant couples (couples in which one partner is HSV-2-positive and the other is HSV-2-negative). The US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of valacyclovir (Valtrex) for the prevention of sexual transmission of HSV infection.

In addition, sexually active persons should know that safer sex practices, such as the use of condoms, help prevent the acquisition of HSV-2. Genital herpes is often just called "herpes."

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