A study from the University of Washington estimates that one out of four Americans has genital herpes simplex virus and only one in five knows that he or she has it. People with herpes can be contagious, even when they have no symptoms, but taking Famvir or Valtrex often can stop the virus from spreading.

Genital herpes is characterized by grouped blisters, ulcers or crusts on the genitals, around the anus or buttocks. Blood tests are not dependable because everyone who has ever had herpes will usually have a positive blood test forever. The only dependable test for herpes is a culture of the virus. Almost all North Americans have had herpes, but only seven percent get blisters recurrently.

If you have had only one bout of herpes, you do not need treatment. If you get more than four attacks of herpes per year, you can take one Valtrex or Famvir pill a day for 3 years and have an 80 percent chance of not getting an outbreak by your third year. See report #G300.

New England Journal of Medicine, March 23, 2000

Checked 9/3/05

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