At least 8 out of 10 people who carry the virus are unaware they have been infected because there are often few or no initial symptoms. Sometimes symptoms show up after months or even years.

They can include:

  • irritation at the genital or anal region
  • small blisters
  • painful sores
  • pain on passing urine
  • vaginal or urethral discharge
  • flu like symptoms.

If you are pregnant and notice symptoms then it is important you tell your GP.

Getting tested

It is only possible to diagnose herpes if you have symptoms, such as a sore or blister. A swab will be sent to the lab and tested for the herpes virus.


There is no cure for herpes, but the symptoms can usually be controlled using antiviral medicine which will reduce the symptoms and speed up healing. You may also be given a cream or gel to treat the skin.


Herpes is a long-term condition as the virus will always remain in your body and can become active again. However, the first outbreak is usually the worst and over time, the virus becomes active less frequently and each outbreak becomes less severe. Herpes will not cause you any long-term harm.

Owls talk genital herpes