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Herpes Genitalis  
Introduction and CausesSymptoms and Effects
PreventionTreatment and Self-help

Introduction and Causes
Symptoms and Effects
Treatment and Self-help

What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that causes painful sores on and around the genitals. It is spread by direct contact with open sores, usually during sex.

What causes it?

The virus called Herpes simplex II causes it.


According to the Department of Health statistics, in 2012, there were 426 cases of herpes genitalis in men, which was 1.8 times the number in women.

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What are the common symptoms?

Both men and women may have one or more symptoms, including:

  • Tingling or itching in the genital or anal area
  • Cluster of tiny fluid-filled blisters. These blisters burst and leave painful sores that last from two to three weeks.
  • A flu-like illness like headache, backache, swollen glands or fever
  • Painful urination if it passes over any of the open sores

What are the complications?

Women who are currently shedding the virus can pass the infection to their baby during childbirth causing encephalitis or even death.

Recurrent episodes occur in most but not all people and can happen years after the first episode.

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How can I prevent it?

Practise safer sex behaviour can reduce the risk of infection:

  • Have sex with only one partner who is not infected and who is having sex only with you.
  • Use condom properly. However, condoms cannot provide complete protection if the sores are on areas not covered by a condom.

How do I find out if I have genital herpes?

You need to be examined by a doctor. Tests may include a swab taken from any visible sores and a sample of urine.


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What is the treatment?

There is no cure for herpes. But there are medications that can decrease discomfort of the symptoms. Long-term treatment may reduce the chance of recurrence.

How can I help myself?

During the herpes episode, there are several things you can do to help you feel better:

  • Take painkiller if you have any pain.
  • Keep the areas clean and dry. Do not use ointments or creams. Gently bathing the sore areas in warm salty water (half a teaspoon of salt to half a pint of water) once or twice a day can help the sores dry out.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing and cotton underwear. Try urinating in a bath of water if passing urine is painful. Drinking plenty of water to dilute the urine also helps.
  • Eating well, exercising and lots of rest help fighting off recurrence.

As the virus can be passed on from blisters and sores to your partner by direct contact, it is advisable to avoid sexual contact during the episode of herpes, including kissing when you have sores around the mouth. Condoms can reduce the risk of transmission of herpes, but parts of the body not covered may not be protected (e.g. the scrotum).

Be careful not to spread the virus to other parts of your body. Always wash your hands with soap before and after caring for the sores.

If you have any suspicions, you should seek medical advice.

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Related Articles
  Safer Sex

Department of Health (Social Hygiene Service)
Hotline : 2150 7370

Hotlines (recorded message or counseling)
Hong Kong Family Planning Association Service Hotline :
Phone:2572 2222

Dr SEX Hotline
Phone : 2337 2121

Well Men Clinic
Phone : 2711 9656

How to Use Condom Properly
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