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How often does genital herpes recur?

Most people who have had an initial primary outbreak of genital herpes will experience periodic outbreaks, or recurrences. For many, symptoms will reappear an average of four or five times a year lasting about five to 10 days.

Between outbreaks, the virus retreats to the sacral ganglion in the spine where it is protected from the body's immune system. Infected people develop antibodies in response to genital herpes infection but, unfortunately, herpes simplex virus (HSV) antibodies cannot completely protect a person against different HSV types or against reactivation of the dormant virus. Periodic outbreaks tend to become less frequent and less severe over time. Eventually outbreaks may disappear altogether.

Not all outbreaks have symptoms, and the virus may continue to be transmitted from a variety of sites in the genital area or in genital secretions or from lesions that are hidden or too small to notice.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.