Genital herpes is likely the most feared and least understood sexually transmitted infection (STI). There is no cure, so people infected with herpes have it forever. Though the virus is rarely life-threatening for most people with it, it’s extremely dangerous for pregnant women. A virus flare-up during pregnancy increases her risk of premature labor and an unborn baby can get a deadly infection in the womb.
What may be surprising is that about one in six people between ages 14 and 49 have the STI and don’t know it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some people with the virus never experience the tell-tale outbreak of blisters and sores, but they are still contagious. This is why getting tested for the genital herpes virus is extremely important. “We at Yale now have a DNA test that takes just four hours, whereas just a few years ago, a diagnostic test could take a week or two,” says Angelique Levi, MD, Yale Medicine’s director of pathology outreach.