Answers to herpes questions


DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am looking for information about herpes. One question is about kissing; can you get it that way? What medicines control the virus? Is it OK to have sex with protection? When a person has genital herpes, can there also be a breakout on the mouth? What should two people with herpes do to prevent the spread? — T.Y.

 ANSWER: Two herpes viruses exist — herpesvirus type 1, HSV-1, and herpesvirus type 2, HSV-2. HSV-1 is mainly responsible for cold sores (fever blisters). HSV-2 is the major cause of genital infections. Both are transmitted through close physical contact with an infected person, and HSV-1 also can be transmitted by contact with oral secretions. Kissing spreads HSV-1. HSV-1 can be transmitted to the genitals through oral sex, and HSV-2 can be transmitted to the mouth in the same way. These infections last for life and tend to recur. Ninety percent of adults have been infected with the HSV-1 virus by age 40. HSV-2 infects about one-quarter of adults.

 It is not only OK to have sex with protection, but protection is encouraged. Condoms are not 100 percent effective, but they greatly lessen the possibility of spread. When there is a visible outbreak of herpes, infected people ought not to have sexual relations. Much infection, however, is transmitted when there is no visible outbreak, so condom use is important at those times.

 I don’t understand your question about simultaneous outbreak of herpes on the genitals and mouth. I suppose it happens, but it’s rare. Genital herpes doesn’t cause an oral outbreak, if that’s what you meant.

 Medicines shorten the period of a breakout and can suppress frequent breakouts if one experiences many relapses. They can also prevent spread.

 Two people who are infected can pass their own special strain of herpes to each other, so they should use condom protection when they have sexual relations. They also should use protection when having sex with noninfected partners, and they should tell all partners that they are infected.

 The herpes booklet explains this disease and infection with the virus causing genital warts and cervical cancer. To obtain a copy, write: Dr. Donohue — No. 1202, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

 DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My son has Alzheimer’s disease. The doctors want him to be tested for Huntington’s disease. I never heard of it. Is there such a disease? — K.G.

 ANSWER: Huntington’s disease is an inherited illness. Only one gene, either from the mother or father, is needed to transfer it to their children.

 The signs of it come on at an earlier age than do the signs of Alzheimer’s disease. They usually appear between 25 and 45. Perhaps this is why the doctors want to check your son for it. A principal sign of Huntington’s is involuntary movements of the legs, arms, head and body. The movements gave this illness its other name, Huntington’s chorea. “Chorea” is a Greek word for “dance.” Personality changes are also common.

 There is no cure. Medicines can control some symptoms. Xenazine is a new medicine designed to control the involuntary movements.

 The Huntington’s Disease Society of America provides people with the latest information and gives them resources that are in their local area. The Web site is, and the toll-free number is 800-345-HDSA.

 DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What can you tell me about the medicine called levodopa-carbidopa? — P.L.

 ANSWER: It’s a medicine for Parkinson’s disease. A brand name is Sinemet.

 The signs of Parkinson’s occur because certain brain cells become depleted of dopamine, a chemical messenger. This medicine restores brain cell dopamine and controls many Parkinson’s signs.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from