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is herpes the same as hepatitis

By: RSC Editorial Team

August 3, 2023

Is Herpes the Same as Hepatitis?

Understanding the risks and symptoms associated with all of the different sexually transmitted infections (STIs) isn’t easy — but staying informed is vital for your health. It’s easy to confuse STIs with similar names, like herpes and hepatitis. So, is herpes the same as hepatitis? 

Herpes and hepatitis are different STIs caused by separate viruses. Both infections cause different symptoms and risks, requiring varying treatments. Despite the similar names, herpes and hepatitis share only a few similarities, so you must learn their distinctions to prioritize your health and prevent the spread. 

At Rapid STD Testing, we offer same-day STD testing and ample educational resources on all types of STIs so you can easily seek the care you need. Below, we dive into everything you need to know about herpes and hepatitis, including how the STIs differ in symptoms, treatments, transmission risks, and more. 

Understanding Herpes

Herpes is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus, also known as HSV. You can get two types of herpes: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Most people associate HSV-2 with genital herpes, the sexually transmitted infection, while HSV-2 typically causes oral herpes, though both viruses can cause either form. 

Herpes is a highly contagious STI that spreads through any skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. For example, herpes may spread through oral sex. Barrier methods, like condoms, cannot always prevent herpes because the infection may spread via non-covered areas of the skin. 

Herpes can cause you to develop fluid-filled blisters in several areas of your body, including the inner thighs, buttocks, anus, rectum, urethra, vagina, vulva, cervix, penis, scrotum, and mouth. The infection can spread further by scratching open the blisters than touching other areas of your body. 

The primary symptoms of herpes include the following:

  • Itching or pain around the genitals
  • Blisters or bumps near the genitals, anus, or mouth 
  • Pain while urinating
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Urethra discharge
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Ooozing from the blisters or scabs

Herpes in men and women can appear within two to twelve days after exposure. Many people can get infected with the virus without experiencing any symptoms or only mild ones. You may carry herpes and spread it to a partner without knowing you ever had it, as the virus is still contagious even if you don’t present symptoms. 

Herpes is not curable, but you can manage symptoms with medications, which we will discuss later. Because the virus stays in your body, you may experience recurrent breakouts. Recurrent breakouts cause your blisters or other symptoms to reappear again for varying periods of time, typically requiring additional rounds of treatment.

How often breakouts occur widely depends on your body, your immune system, and various environmental factors. You may have a breakout a year after your first infection, or they may only occur every few years. Recurrent breakout symptoms typically present more mild, short-lived symptoms. 

Some people experience warning signs before a breakout occurs, called prodromal symptoms. Prodromal symptoms may include tingling sensations, shooting pains down the legs, or genital pain. If you experience warning signs, you may be able to seek treatment early on to manage your breakout before it worsens. 

You may be at a higher risk of contracting herpes if you frequently have oral, vaginal, or anal sex without using barriers. Engaging with multiple partners can also increase your risks. Herpes comes with numerous health complications, such as an increased risk of contracting other STIs, internal swelling, and newborn complications for pregnant mothers. 

If you think you may have herpes, order a rapid STD test from Rapid STD Testing today. 

Understanding the Hepatitis Virus

Hepatitis is another type of viral infection that can spread through sexual contact, though not always. So is herpes the same as hepatitis? No, several different viruses, including hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E, can cause hepatitis, whereas herpes comes from the herpes simplex virus. 

Rather than causing blisters, hepatitis primarily affects the liver. Herpes does not affect your liver. 

Hepatitis A and E can spread through contaminated water or food sources while hepatitis B, C, and D spread through blood or other bodily fluids. You can get hepatitis B, C, or D through sexual contact or by sharing needles. You cannot get hepatitis C or other forms of hepatitis from herpes, though herpes may weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to contracting an infection. 

Hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver that can progress into chronic liver disease, fibrosis, liver cancer, cirrhosis, or liver failure. The most common symptoms of hepatitis include the following:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea 
  • Fatigue 
  • Jaundice

You may be at a high risk of contracting hepatitis if you frequently share needles, razors, or toothbrushes with others. Unprotected sex, especially when your partner has open wounds, can greatly increase your risk as well. 

Different Types of Hepatitis Viruses

The different types of hepatitis come with varying risk factors, health concerns, and treatment requirements. Learn all about hepatitis viruses below:

  • Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A comes from the feces of infected individuals or animals and often spreads through contaminated food or water sources or anal sex. This virus typically causes mild, short-term cases that may not require treatment. 
  • Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B transmits through bodily fluids, secretions, and blood. Hepatitis B can pass through sex, sharing needles, and childbirth. You can get a vaccine to prevent hep B, though if you contract the virus, you will likely need long-term antiviral treatments. 
  • Hepatitis C: Hepatitis C spreads similarly to hepatitis B, but you cannot get a vaccine to protect yourself from getting it. 
  • Hepatitis D: You can only get hepatitis D if you have hepatitis B. The dual infection typically results in severe outcomes. 
  • Hepatitis E: Hepatitis E spreads through contaminated food and water sources, like hep A. Luckily, safe and effective vaccines for hepatitis E are available. 

Acute vs. Chronic Hepatitis

Short-term hepatitis that resolves before six months is acute, while symptoms that persist for longer than six months fall under the chronic category. Acute hepatitis typically causes you to present symptoms quickly after contracting the virus, if you experience any at all. Patients with acute hepatitis often experience much more mild, short-lived effects that resolve on their own without requiring treatment. 

Acute hepatitis can occur in hepatitis A, B, C, and E, and hepatitis B and C are most often chronic. 

Diagnosis and Treatment

Is herpes the same as hepatitis in terms of diagnosis steps and treatment plans? No, if you think you have either herpes or hepatitis, your provider will conduct different exams to diagnose your condition. 

Let’s start with herpes. 

To diagnose herpes, your provider will typically ask about your symptoms first, then conduct a physical exam to narrow down possibilities. If they think you have herpes, they can sample one of your active sores using a swab to test it for the herpes simplex virus. If the lab test comes back positive, you can move on to treatment options. 

Because herpes has no cure, your doctor will prescribe medications to help you manage your outbreak, not cure it. You can take antiviral pills to help your sores heal, reduce how frequently your outbreaks occur, improve the severity of your outbreaks, and reduce your contagiousness. Some of the most popular medications for herpes outbreaks include the following:

  • Acyclovir (Zovirax)
  • Valacyclovir (Valtrex)
  • Famciclovir

Antiviral creams can provide immediate symptom relief, helping you deal with itching and burning, while antiviral injections and pills can offer more sustained effects. Your provider will likely recommend whichever option they believe will work best for your needs.

Now let’s look at how the diagnosis and treatment process for hepatitis works. The hepatitis diagnosis process will begin with a physical exam to assess your symptoms and rule out other conditions. From there, your provider will order a blood test to see if you have any form of hepatitis present in your system. 

If your results come back positive, your doctor may recommend further imaging or a biopsy to assess the condition of your liver. Imaging may include an ultrasound, transient elastography to test liver tissue strength, an MRI, or a CT scan. In rare cases where none of these tests provide detailed enough results, you may need a liver biopsy to assess tissue scarring or other concerns caused by the virus. 

Treatment for hepatitis will depend on the type you have and the stage of progression. For example, hepatitis A and E typically resolve on their own with rest, plenty of fluids, and over-the-counter medications for symptom relief. Conversely, hepatitis B and C usually require long-term antiviral medications to fight the virus and prevent further liver damage. 

A few of the most common antiviral medication options include adefovir, interferon, lamivudine, peginterferon, telbivudine, and tenofovir. You may require multiple courses over time, depending on how your body responds to the medication. 

One similarity between herpes and hepatitis is what you should do while on medication. For the safest results, you should follow your provider’s recommendations, carefully monitor your symptoms, and take all medications as instructed. Avoid sexual intercourse until you are no longer contagious. 

Preventing Herpes and Hepatitis

Both herpes and hepatitis can cause long-term health complications. Luckily, you can avoid contracting both STIs by practicing these prevention tips.

We recommend the following tips for avoiding herpes infections or outbreaks:

  • Use dental dams and condoms: Herpes spreads through skin-to-skin contact, so preventing the spread revolves around minimizing contact. You should use dental dams or condoms for oral, vaginal, and anal sex. 
  • Avoid contact with open sores: If you or your partner has active sores or any other open wounds, you should avoid sexual contact until the skin heals. 
  • Limit your number of sexual partners: Limiting your number of sexual partners can reduce your chance of contracting STIs and can help you avoid spreading herpes if you’ve already contracted it. 
  • Get tested regularly: Regular STI testing is one of the best ways to reduce the spread. By locating infections early on, you can seek treatments and avoid sex before spreading to partners. You should urge your partners to schedule regular screenings as well. 
  • Don’t touch open sores: If you have open sores, do not scratch or pick at them, as you may accidentally spread the infection elsewhere on your body. Avoid touching the sores if you have open cuts on your fingers as well. 
  • Consult your doctor about medication options: Certain herpes medications can prevent future outbreaks. If you struggle with frequent outbreaks, consult your doctor about long-term medication options for preventative support. 

Hepatitis prevention includes a few of the same tactics as above, like using condoms and limiting your number of sexual partners, though it also requires additional efforts because certain types of hepatitis spread through blood, water, and food. Use the following tips to minimize your hepatitis risks:

  • Avoid sharing needles: Hepatitis can spread through blood, so you should avoid sharing needles, razors, and toothbrushes. You should only receive tattoos or piercings from reputable, licensed professionals who use sterilized equipment. 
  • Never touch spilled blood: If you’re ever around someone else’s blood, avoid touching it. While this scenario may sound rare, it can occur if a sexual partner has an open wound. 
  • Only consume water and food from safe sources: Hepatitis can also spread through contaminated food and water sources. If you’re visiting an area with high hepatitis risks, you should drink bottled water, avoid ice in your drinks, and avoid tap water when rinsing ingredients or brushing your teeth. While such strains of hepatitis may not be as common in the United States, you can still contract the infection through undercooked meats, so be sure to cook your food thoroughly. 
  • Get vaccinated: You can get vaccinated for certain types of hepatitis, offering effective prevention against the infection. Make sure you’re up-to-date on your vaccines to prioritize your health. 

Continue Learning With Rapid STD Testing

So, is herpes the same as hepatitis? No, both STIs stem from varying viruses, causing different symptoms and concerns. Whether you think you have herpes, hepatitis, or a different infection, we’re here to help. 

At Rapid STD Testing, we offer ample educational resources and convenient access to STD panels so you can quickly get the treatment you need. Whether you have symptoms or just want to check in on your health, order a 10-panel STD test today.


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By: RSC Editorial Team
August 3, 2023

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