Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT
Like bacterial STDs, viral STDs/STIs often give no warning signs or symptoms. This means you can get infected and infect a sexual partner without knowing it and serious complications which can cause irreversible damage can progress silently before you ever recognize a problem.
Viral STDs/STIs are caused by viruses passed from person-to-person and depending on the STD, can be transmitted during sexual activity; during non-sexual contact with another individual; from mother to infant during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding; blood transfusions or sharing IV drug equipment; and in some instances, from towels, straws, or other objects that come in contact with an infected individual (see STD in-depths for details about how each STD is transmitted).
In general, viral infections can involve many different parts of the body at the same time.
Viral STDs, especially herpes, hepatitis B and C, and HIV infections, usually persist for life. Antiviral drugs can control but not yet cure all of these infections, except hepatitis C, which can be cured in some people after prolonged treatment.
Other viral STDs must be ‘waited out’ or allowed to run their course, at which point, the body will have developed antibodies to fight the infection and reduce or completely eliminate symptoms. For those viral STDs, it’s important to remember one can transmit or contract them even when symptoms are not present and because testing is not always available or 100% accurate, one can transmit or contract the virus after it’s believed to have cleared.
Viral STD List:
An extremely common herpes-type virus, CMV infects more than half of all adults in the US by the age of 40.
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Symptoms, Test & Treatment
- Cytomegalovirus In-Depth
- Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Blog
- Additional Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Resources
Genital Warts / Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
The Guttmacher Institute reports that nearly 3 out of every 4 Americans between the ages of 15 and 49 have been infected with HPV at some point in their lives, and some studies show that at least 1/3 of all sexually active young adults have genital HPV infections.
- Genital Warts Symptoms, Test & Treatment
- Genital Warts In-Depth
- Genital Warts Blog
- Pictures of Genital Warts
Hepatitis (A, B, & C)
Hepatitis A, B, and C are viruses that destroy the liver.
Hepatitis B is the form of hepatitis most commonly spread through sexual activity.
Herpes (HSV1 & HSV2)
About 1 in 5 people in the US over age 12 is infected with HSV2 – the strain of the herpes virus that most commonly causes genital herpes, although, most are unaware they have it.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a type of virus called a retrovirus that changes a cell’s DNA.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrom (AIDS) is an acquired syndrome, or a group of symptoms, that is caused by infection with HIV.
The Human T Lymphotropic Virus (type 1 and type 2), or HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 is fairly common in certain areas of the world like Japan, the Caribbean, Africa, parts of South America, eastern Siberia, and the Pacific islands and less common (fewer than 1% of the population infected) in other parts of the world.
In rare instances, HTLV can develop into: Adult T-cell Leukemia/Lymphoma (ATLL), a form of cancer of the blood; HTLV-I-associated myelopathy (HAM), an inflammation of the nerves; or other associated diseases, like Strongyloidiasis.
Molluscum contagiosum is a relatively common viral infection of the skin.
Though most common in children, molluscum contagiosum can affect adults as well — particularly those with weakened immune systems. In adults, molluscum contagiosum involving the genitals is considered a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
- Molluscum Contagiosum Symptoms, Test & Treatment
- Molluscum Contagiosum In-Depth
- Molluscum Contagiosum Blog
- Pictures of Molluscum Contagiosum
Mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) and is a member of the herpes virus family and one of the most common human viruses.
The virus occurs worldwide, and most people become infected with EBV sometime during their lives. In the US, as many as 95 percent of adults between 35 and 40 years of age have been infected.
- Mononucleosis Symptoms, Test & Treatment
- Mononucleosis (‘Mono’) In-Depth
- Mononucleosis Blog
- Additional Mononucleosis Resources
Vaginitis (BV, Yeast, Etc.) – Can also be bacterial and parasitic
Bacterial Vaginosis, Urinary Tract Infections, and Yeast Infections are genital infections which straddle the STD boundaries because they are genital, and sometimes sexually transmitted or exacerbated by sexual activity, but they often can, and do, occur without a person having had any sex at all.
The Zika virus is primarily transmitted by infected mosquitoes but can also be transmitted sexually through bodily fluids. Zika usually does not cause noticeable signs or symptoms, but it can adversely affect pregnant women and their unborn children.
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