Herpes 2 is a member of the herpes virus family which is usually linked with incidence of genital herpes. It is also known as herpes simplex virus type two, or HSV-2. Around 20% of the population at any given time may be carrying herpes 2, with many carriers remaining asymptomatic. The frequency of asymptomatic infection is one reason why regular screenings for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a very good idea, to ensure that any infections are caught before people have a chance to spread them to their partners.
The other form of HSV is herpes 1. Herpes 1 is usually associated with oral herpes, although it can also infect the genitals, while herpes 2 is linked with genital outbreaks. In fact, HSV-1 and HSV-2 are very similar genetically, with HSV-2 tending to carry more social stigma because people think of it specifically as an STI. Both infections tend to be mild in nature, with asymptomatic infection being highly common, and for this reason, it is sometimes difficult to determine the source of the infection, as it may be diagnosed weeks, months, or years after infectious contact.
People can contract herpes 2 through intimate contact with infected individuals, or through their mothers, in the case of neonatal HSV-2. In many people, the virus causes no symptoms. Other people experience distinctive lesions which break out along the genitals in the form of fluid-filled vesicles which eventually burst and scab over. People may experience recurrent outbreaks, or random outbreaks which occur infrequently, with stress being a contributing factor to the severity and frequency of outbreaks.
Herpes 2 is not curable. However, it can be managed with medications which are designed to reduce the frequency of outbreaks, and to make outbreaks shorter and less painful. These medications can also reduce the risk of asymptomatic transmission, which will help people avoid spreading the virus to uninfected partners. Doctors can provide a prescription for such medications after evaluating a patient's condition and conducting tests to confirm that the patient has HSV-2.
People with the disease should avoid intimate contact with uninfected partners when they are experiencing outbreaks. When sores are not present, barrier protection can be used to reduce the risk of passing the virus on, and the use of medications to manage infection is strongly recommended. People should also not assume that they are herpes free if they have never experienced lesions or outbreaks, because of the huge percentage of patients who have infections without developing herpes sores.