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Genital Herpes (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care

With an initial outbreak, if an individual has signs or symptoms of a genital herpes infection, he or she should seek the care of a doctor as soon as possible, particularly if the diagnosis of genital herpes has not been previously established. Although genital herpes infections generally are not medical emergencies, treatment is more effective when it is started within the first few days of the outbreak.

Subsequent outbreaks rarely need immediate medical attention.

  • If an individual has had a genital herpes outbreak before, discuss options for preventing further outbreaks with a doctor.
  • People with severe underlying medical problems (particularly HIV or AIDS) are at higher risk of severe illness if the disease is untreated. These individuals should contact a doctor immediately upon noticing genital herpes sores.
  • A pregnant woman with signs or symptoms of genital herpes must inform her doctor as soon as possible. Prompt medical therapy may reduce the risk of transmitting the disease to newborn children by exposure in the birth canal.

In otherwise healthy people, genital herpes outbreaks rarely require hospital visits. If an individual is experiencing an initial episode of genital herpes and cannot be seen by a regular doctor within the first few days of the illness, it is advisable go to a hospital's emergency department to have medical treatment started.

  • Some people can become quite ill from genital herpes infections. If an individual has a high fever, severe headache, shortness of breath, or extreme fatigue, he or she should go to the hospital for evaluation.
  • People with severe medical illnesses (particularly HIV or AIDS) may become very ill from genital herpes infections. The herpes virus may quickly spread to the brain, lungs, and other organs. Individuals in this situation should seek prompt medical attention for genital herpes outbreaks and go to a hospital if there is any sign of illness other than sores on the genitals.

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