Sunday, February 1, 2009

Today's PSA brought to you by House...

Do you watch House? There are always all sorts of crazy and not so crazy conditions that someone comes in with. I often wonder how accurate the info on these shows is. III hates shows like Law and Order- he finds the happenings on there really unrealistic. I'm guessing doctors feel the same way about shows like ER, Grey's and House.

I like House though. I don't know if it's Hugh Laurie or the puzzles of the diagnoses... so I watch it on USA all the time.

Today's episode had a side story about a man who got herpes and the confusion about whether he got it from his wife or she got it from him, and which one of them it was who must have cheated. He figured out which it was but telling them it was possible to get herpes from a toilet seat and see which one was quick to believe it.

Because you can't get herpes from a toilet seat.

They also mentioned that it is actually possible to be positive for the herpes virus (HSV) and be asymptomatic AND still pass it on to your partner. Which doesn't really jive with cheating storyline then, because, unless both members of the marriage were virgins when they got married (which was not part of the storyline) one of them could have been carrying HSV for their entire marriage and never had any symptoms.

Why do I know all of these details about herpes? Because I'm one of the 1 in 5 adults who has it. HSV2 to be exact.

It was really hard when I was first diagnosed- I was still single. I was already going through a rough time. The guy who I probably got HSV from stopped returning my calls. That was pretty much a sucky time.

I got lots of support from an online forum- I encourage anyone who is dealing with a herpes diagnosis to check them out.

Anyway, here's where the PSA comes in- I'm a big information gatherer. It's part of how I cope. So I learned quite a bit about herpes after my diagnosis. So here are some important facts that everyone should know.

  • HSV1 had generally been considered the oral herpes (aka cold sores) and HSV2 genital. It is possible, however, to get either strain in either place.
  • Many people don't realize that if they have a cold sore and "go down" on someone, that person can contract genital HSV1.
  • As mentioned above, 1 in 5 adults have HSV2. (Some stats say 1 in 4.) Almost 90% of them don't know they have it. They are either asymptomatic or mistake their symptoms for other things. Stats from study.
  • The number of people with HSV1 is a lot higher. It's been estimated at 80-90% of the adult population.
  • This one is a biggie that most people don't realize- even if you ask your doctor for STD testing regularly, you are very likely not being tested for HSV. It is not a part of routine STD testing. In fact, many doctors are hesitant to test for it without symptoms.* (For very stupid reasons, IMO.)
  • If a HSV2- woman sleeps with a HSV2+ man over the course of a year with no protection, she has a 10% chance of contracting HSV2. If he uses an antiviral daily, the chance is cut in half. If he also uses a condom it is cut in half again.
  • If a HSV2- man sleeps with a HSV2+ woman over the course of a year with no protection, he has a 4% chance of contracting HSV2. If she uses an antiviral daily, the chance is cut in half. If he also uses a condom it is cut in half again. (Yep, that's about 1% folks.) Valtrex study
  • If someone has genital HSV1, the chances of passing it on to another person genitally is extremely small. The chance that his or her partner already has oral HSV1 (making it almost impossible to contract again genitally) is quite high.
So there you have a selection of some of what I consider important herpes facts.

If you or someone you care about contracts herpes, remember- it's not the end of the world. It's not debilitating. It's not terminal. And it is so, so common. People don't realize how common it is. Next time you're in a roomful of people, count: "One, two, three, four, herpes. One, two, three, four, herpes." Remember to wear a condom. Get tested for STDs after you've had new partners- better yet, make sure you and your new partner are tested BEFORE you have sex. Knowledge is the best way to decrease that ratio.

*If you ask your doctor for a herpes test, make sure they are doing a type specific blood test. Western blot is the best one to ask for.
**For more info about herpes, check out
The Official Herpes Handbook

1 comment:

A. said...

I enjoy House, too. I like to watch it with people who try to guess the diagnosis before House does. I catch mistakes all the time, too, especially along the lines of dosing errors.

Thanks for all the info! I like to point out that we've all had herpes...chicken pox is a herpes virus, too :) I had shingles (herpes zostor) and the painful illness that follows, post-herpetic neuralgia. I got a lot of odd looks on that.