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Genital herpes is an infection of the genitals (penis in men, vulva and vagina in women) and surrounding area of skin, caused by the herpes simplex virus. It is transmitted via skin to skin contact. Approximately 80% of people infected with genital herpes are unaware of the infection. There are two types of herpes simplex virus:

  • Type 1 herpes simplex virus is the usual cause of cold sores around the mouth. It also causes up to 50% of cases of genital herpes.
  • Type 2 herpes simplex virus usually only causes genital herpes.

The Illness

The first episode of symptoms may appear months or years after being first infected.

Primary Infection

  • Symptomless
  • Non specific symptoms-fever, aches and pains
  • Blisters around genitals, becoming shallow painful ulcers. The ulcers and blisters can last up to 10-20 days, and then gradually heal and go without scarring.
  • Vaginal discharge, pain on passing urine

Following the primary infection, the virus lies dormant in local nerves and activates, leading to recurrent symptoms of genital herpes if the primary infection was in the genitals.

However, even people who do not get symptoms may, on occasions, have virus in their genital area and therefore be infectious to sexual partners. In fact, this is how many genital herpes simplex infections are passed on.

Recurrent Infection

Recurrences tend to be less severe and shorter than the first episode. It is more usual to have 7-10 days of symptoms with a recurrence, unlike the 10-20 days of symptoms that may occur during the first episode. Most people do not develop a fever and do not feel particularly unwell during a recurrence. A tingling or itch in the genital area for 12-24 hours may indicate a recurrence is starting. The time period between recurrences and the frequency of recurrences is variable. The recurrence rate for HSV 2 is 4 times higher than HSV 1. Recurrences tend to reduce in incidence over time in most people.

Diagnosis of Herpes

ScreenTest IncludesTurnaround Accurate From ?PriceAvailability
Herpes Blood ScreenHerpes Simplex 1/2 Antibodies (IGG)2 Working Days (Moorgate/Oxford Circus)

2-3 Working Days (Rest UK)
Accurate at 28 Days and Conclusive results at 2 Months post exposure £130Nationwide
Herpes PCR TestHerpes Simplex 1/2 by PCR (DNA) by Urine or Swab3-4 Working Days (Moorgate/Oxford Circus)

4-6 Working Days (Rest UK)
Conclusive results at 2 weeks post exposure*£130Nationwide

*PCR swabs directly from genital blisters/ulcers £130 (Moorgate/Oxford Circus Only)


Symptomatic management with pain killers and local anaesthetics gels.

Antiviral medication- does not clear the virus from the body, but prevents multiplication. They are useful for a first episode of symptoms and reduces the severity and duration of symptoms if it is started within five days of the onset of symptoms. A five-day course of treatment is usual, but may be extended by a few days if blisters are still forming.

Herpes simplex virus is very contagious when blisters are present. Sexual intercourse should be avoided from the time symptoms first start until they are fully over. Condoms may not fully protect against passing on the virus, as the condom only protects the area that is covered. There is still a small chance that asymptomatic individuals can transmit the viruses during sexual intercourse when you have sex when you do not have symptoms.

Treatment Available at CityDoc

Acute attacks of genital herpes require clinical assessment and anti-viral medication can be issued when appropriate.

Treatment for Genital herpes is at available at CityDoc Moorgate/Oxford Circus GP Clinics Only. There is a mandatory sexual health consultation fee of £90 if no sexual screen is purchased.

Azithromycin 1 box of 200 mcg tablets (5 Day Course) £30. 

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