Oftentimes people do not know they have a herpes infection. Herpes is usually a mild infection. Some people are unaware of any symptoms, and others may mistake minor symptoms for an insect bite or rash until an outbreak. Symptoms can include painful sores in the genital area, itching, painful urination, vaginal discharge and tender lumps in the groin. During the first outbreak (called primary herpes), some people experience flu-like symptoms such as body aches, fever and headache. Most people who have herpes infection will have outbreaks of sores and symptoms from time to time. Some women have herpes only on the cervix. In this case, there may be few or no symptoms with an outbreak.
Once you have been infected with the virus, you’ll go through different stages of infection. Each stage is explained as follows:
This stage usually starts 2 to 8 days after you’re infected, but it can take much longer to begin. Usually, the infection causes groups of small, painful blisters. The fluid in the blisters may be clear or cloudy. The area under the blisters will be red. The blisters break open so easily that they quickly become open sores. You may not ever notice the blisters.
Besides having tender blisters or sores in your genital area, it may hurt to urinate. You may run a fever, feel achy and have other flu-like symptoms.
While most people have a painful primary stage of infection, some don’t have any symptoms at all, and may not even know they’re infected.
During this stage, there are no blisters, sores or other symptoms. At this time, the virus is traveling from your skin into the nerves near your spine.
In the stage, the virus starts multiplying in the nerve endings. If the affected nerve endings are in areas of the body that make or are in contact with body fluids, the virus can get into those body fluids (such as saliva, semen or vaginal fluids). There are no symptoms during this stage, but the virus can be spread during this time.