Updated 04 August 2016

Routine genital herpes screening not recommended

Unless someone has symptoms of genital herpes, testing offers little benefit because the sexually transmitted disease has no cure.

A US federal task force is prepared to recommend that teens, adults and pregnant women not be routinely tested for genital herpes if they don't have signs of infection.

Symptoms like blisters

About one in every six Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 has genital herpes, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The disease, which is transmitted through vaginal, anal and oral sex, causes symptoms like blisters, discharge, burning and bleeding between periods. Though symptoms can be treated, genital herpes is incurable.

Read: The STI most men get without knowing it

In support of its proposed guidelines, the US Preventive Services Task Force says the benefit of routine herpes screening is small, because early treatments aren't likely to make much of a difference.

"Because there's no cure, there isn't much doctors and nurses can do for people who don't have symptoms," Dr Maureen Phipps said in a news release from the task force, of which she is a member. Phipps is chairwoman of obstetrics and gynaecology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Rhode Island.

Counselling recommended

The task force also says screening people who have no signs of herpes may cause harm, because the blood test can be inaccurate.

Read: All sexual activity carries STD risk

Still, "people should be aware of the signs and symptoms of genital herpes and should talk to their doctor or nurse if they are concerned," said Ann Kurth, dean of the Yale University School of Nursing. "This is especially true for women who are pregnant because there are things clinicians can do to help women who have genital herpes protect their babies during delivery."

The task force does, however, recommend screening for other sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV. It also recommends health care professionals counsel patients who are at high risk of developing sexually transmitted diseases.

Read more:

Teens are having sex from age 14 and it's downright dangerous

Oral sex and STIs

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7 facts about genital herpes

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