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How can I prevent giving herpes to my partner?

To prevent spreading genital herpes to your sexual partners, you must tell them you have the infection. Further, avoid sexual contact (anal, vaginal or oral, with or without condoms) as soon as you notice symptoms of an outbreak. Your partner can contract herpes even when you are asymptomatic, but the use of condoms reduces risk for transmitting herpes, especially from men to women. Treating your herpes infection with medication also reduces your partners' risks.
The risk for genital herpes being transmitted to your partner is based on several factors, but according to one report, in heterosexual couples in which only one partner is infected, over one year, the virus was transmitted in 10% of cases. In 70% of these couples, transmission took place when the infected person had no symptoms.

If you experience an outbreak of genital herpes, whether primary or recurrent, you need to follow a few simple steps to improve healing and avoid spreading the infection to other parts of your body or to other people:
  • Keep the infected area clean and dry to prevent secondary infections from developing.
  • Avoid touching sores, and wash hands after contact with sores.
  • Avoid sexual contact until sores are completely healed (that is, scabs have fallen off and new skin has formed over the site of the lesions).
People with early signs of a herpes outbreak or with visible sores should not have sex from the development of the first prodromal symptom until the sores have healed completely.

Preventive therapy can decrease the frequency and severity of recurrent outbreaks by up to 90%. However, drug therapy doesn't significantly reduce the frequency of recurrences once it is stopped. Recurrence also tends to lessen in intensity and duration over time.

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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.