What is Genital Herpes?
According to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The American Social Health Association, there will be more than 15 million new cases of sexually transmitted disease every year. That boils down to 41,095 newly infected every single day. One of the most common is herpes simplex virus (HSV) the cause of genital herpes. Genital herpes is affecting approximately 45 million Americans. It is estimated that 1 in 4 adults over the age of 12 have genital herpes.
Despite of all the studies, what little is taught in health class during high school and all the efforts made by organizations focusing on sexually transmitted diseases, most people do not consider themselves to be at personal risk of contracting genital herpes. The common belief in any situation is that genital herpes is something that always happens to someone else. Many of these people are shocked to hear just how widespread the herpes virus actually is. They are even more shocked to hear some of the actual facts about herpes that are so contrary to what they have assumed or learned many years ago.
The most extensive study on the prevalence of genital herpes thus far has been The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). The method in the NHANES survey was to draw blood from 40,000 people who would represent a cross section of the U.S. population, and to test these blood samples for a variety of medical conditions. One of the tests employed identified the presence of herpes simplex virus type 2, the type most commonly associated with genital herpes. The NHANES results for 1991 showed that 22% of the U.S. population over the age of 12 were positive for HSV-2. Even more surprising were the number of people who were HSV-2 positive that were symptom free. It was through this study that it was found that 90% of those infected were completely unaware of their herpes status.
A number of smaller studies using similar specialized blood tests have very comparable results in that 80% to 90% of those who have an HSV-2 infection report no history of symptoms. In ongoing studies, researchers took the testing a bit further to build a profile of those who were apparently asymptomatic. They spent time educating the subjects using photographs to show examples of types of signs and symptoms that could be associated with genital herpes. This educational process resulted in 62% of those who had initially reported no history of symptoms were reporting that they could now recognize some possible signs of a herpes infection.
Now that you know how widespread genital herpes is known to be, you should know a little more about the actual make-up of this particular virus.
Herpes is a virus like any other virus. It thrives in the body by living in healthy cells. Once it takes hold in the human body, it invades normal cells and disrupts their usual function. The virus uses the normal cells to produce copies of itself. This process is called viral replication.
Most viral infections defy treatment for cure. Viruses cannot be cured. Contrary to the old saying, viruses do not just run their course. It takes our bodies natural defenses (immune system) to build up a resistance and eliminate the virus, or in the case of genital herpes, force it into suppression. The herpes virus is a bit trickier than other viruses. Unfortunately, herpes has found a way to persist in the body without causing symptoms this is called latency. While in this dormant state, herpes can thrive without symptom for long periods of time. It is believed that this dormant state is the primary cause of herpes going undetected in approximately 90% of those infected.
Once a person becomes infected with the herpes simplex virus, the virus begins replicating, invading the local nerve cells and spreading. The process of latency occurs in the nerve roots. Having traveled the nerve pathways, HSV sets up a permanent residence in the ganglia.
In the case of genital herpes, HSV resides in the sacral ganglia located near the base of the spine. In the case of oral-facial herpes, HSV resides in the trigminal ganglia near the top of the spine. In these ganglia the virus remains protected from the bodies natural immune system and is capable of returning to the active state, though it can remain inactive for varied periods of time. It is because of this protected state of the virus that the symptoms can be treated, but the virus remains incurable.
Though healthcare providers can provide you with various possible options for treating the symptoms cause by a genital herpes infection, it is up to you to find what works best in your individual case. For many, a simple regimen of essential oils will be enough to treat the occasional outbreak. Whatever the case may be, it has been proven that a stronger immune system will aide in the prevention of recurring outbreaks. The healthier the lifestyle you choose, the less bothersome your genital herpes infection will be.