Herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that infects about 776,000 people annually in the United States alone. The Herpes Simplex Virus causes it. The Herpes Simplex Virus, or HSV, has two main types: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause herpes infections through oral and genital contact.
You can still catch herpes again even if you have had it before, but the chances of that happening are slim. Studies show that people who have been exposed to the herpes virus once can still catch it a second time. However, reinfection with herpes is rare and has only been reported a few times.
CATCHING HERPES AGAIN: RECURRENCE AND REINFECTION
There is a difference between being re-infected with herpes and experiencing a recurrence of a past infection.
Recurrence is when a person infected with herpes in the past starts to experience the same symptoms all over again without having to be exposed to the virus again. This happens when the immune system suppresses the viral particles, but they are never fully eliminated. These particles can live inside the human body, especially in the ganglions, for years and manifest themselves again when appropriate triggers are present.
Reinfection with herpes, on the other hand, is when a person is re-introduced to the herpes virus, and a new disease process ensues. Thus, unlike recurrence, reinfection requires a new exposure event. Thus, reinfection can also occur with different HSV strains.
RECURRENCE WITH HSV-2
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can potentially cause recurring infections in affected people. However, according to studies, HSV-2 is more strongly associated with recurrence over the years.
As a person gets infected with genital herpes caused by HSV-2, they are more likely to experience recurring symptoms, which seem to settle down and come back on their own accord. Recurrence with HSV-2 is also strongly associated with environmental triggers. These triggers may include stress, debilitating health conditions, and other STIs.
It is entirely possible to get re-infected with herpes even if you have had the disease before. This is because having herpes once does not confer lifelong immunity against the virus.
While an immune response is initiated when an individual is exposed to the herpes virus, this immune response is not enough to provide lasting immunity.
The antibodies produced in the primary immune response are merely enough to tackle the onset of the initial infection and play little to no role in any subsequent infections that a person may incur throughout their lives.
Moreover, it is also possible to get re-infected with another strain of HSV, in which case antibodies from the primary reaction would have no role to play.
As heinous as reinfections with herpes sound, there are always plenty of ways to avoid them. You can always employ safe-sex behaviors to minimize your chances of acquiring a herpes infection in the first place and reinfection.
Some of the ways that you can avoid a herpes infection include:
- Using a condom before every sexual act
- Using a new condom with a new partner every single time
- Limiting the number of sexual partners that you engage with
- Getting tested for STDs regularly