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10/27/23 Public Health Education Topic: Genital Herpes

People who are sexually active can get genital herpes, a common sexually transmitted disease (STD).


How is genital herpes spread?

You can get genital herpes by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the infection. You can get herpes if you have contact with:

  • A herpes sore;

  • Saliva from a partner with an oral herpes infection;

  • Genital fluids from a partner with a genital herpes infection;

  • Skin in the oral area of a partner with oral herpes; or

  • Skin in the genital area of a partner with genital herpes.

You also can get genital herpes from a sex partner who does not have a visible sore or is unaware of their infection. It is also possible to get genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a partner with oral herpes.


You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools. You also will not get it from touching objects, such as silverware, soap, or towels.


How can I prevent genital herpes?

The only way to completely avoid STDs is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting genital herpes:

  • Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who does not have herpes.

  • Using condoms the right way every time you have sex.

Be aware that not all herpes sores occur in areas that a condom can cover. Also, the skin can release the virus (shed) from areas that do not have a visible herpes sore. For these reasons, condoms may not fully protect you from getting herpes.


If your sex partner(s) has/have genital herpes, you can lower your risk of getting it if:

  • Your partner takes an anti-herpes medicine every day. This is something your partner should discuss with his or her healthcare provider.

  • You avoid having vaginal, anal, or oral sex when your partner has herpes symptoms (i.e., during an “outbreak”).



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