Can Valacyclovir Prevent the Spread of Genital Herpes?

Written by HeyDoctor Medical Team

Does daily medicine help prevent passing on genital herpes? How can I protect myself and my partner?

Can valacyclovir prevent the spread of genital herpes?

Yes. But let’s give this information a bit more context.

Valacyclovir (sold in the US under the brand name Valtrex) is a widely-prescribed drug used to treat all the common viruses in the herpes family: oral herpes, genital herpes, and herpes zoster (VZV, known as chickenpox the first time you get it, or shingles when the virus comes later in life). It’s also used to prevent or reduce recurrent outbreaks of genital herpes, while reducing the risk of transmission to someone who doesn’t have genital herpes.

Controlling the spread of genital herpes is difficult—about 16% of Americans have herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2, the strain most often associated with genital herpes), but between 75-90% of those people don’t know they have it. That’s because genital herpes is often asymptomatic, or the symptoms (primarily sores on or around the genitals) are mild enough to go unnoticed.

How effective is valacyclovir at preventing genital herpes from spreading?

Valacyclovir cuts the risk of transmitting genital herpes in half, and using condoms cuts the risk in half again. But the risk of transmitting the disease is already pretty low: overall, the risk of an infected person transmitting genital herpes to a partner is about 4%, and as noted above, the vast majority of people who do get infected show no symptoms, or very few.

So yes, the risk is low, but if you have genital herpes, you may want to take every preventative measure you can, including a preventative drug like valacyclovir, and using condoms. And of course, the first step is disclosing your status to potential partners before sex (and before you’re in the moment, too!).

Do all people show symptoms of genital herpes? How contagious is it?

Despite the risk of spreading herpes being relatively low, genital herpes is still a major public health issue, precisely for the reason that most people who have it are carriers without any symptoms. That means that the virus spreads rapidly among populations, because so few people are aware they have it, and not all of those who are aware are taking preventative action.

People who have frequent outbreaks (more than eight per year) are contagious about 31% of the time, and people who have one to seven outbreaks a year are contagious about 19% of the time. For both groups, the risk of spreading the virus goes up if they’re having an active outbreak. But even people who have no symptoms are still contagious about 10% of the time.

Talk to your doctor if you’re worried you have been exposed to genital herpes.

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of HeyDoctor, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.

Check out the HeyDoctor app

With over 1,000 5-star reviews, we're one of the highest rated medical apps. See for yourself!