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At the heart of general practice since 1960

All change as Blair purges Department of Health ministers

We were delighted to see the comment 'Many more of us have had herpes than know it' in Dr Matthews's '10 top tips on genital herpes' (Clinical, April 23). Disseminating the fact that only one in four of those who contract genital herpes are sufficiently symptomatic to seek diagnosis may help destigmatise this very common virus.

There are two more tips that Dr Matthews could have included: patients can develop a genital infection from a partner's cold sores through oral sex, and babies can get an anogenital infection off a carer's whitlow.

The diagnosis can leave patients with many questions or a high level of anxiety1. Patients benefit from social support2.

Doctors can suggest they contact the Herpes Viruses Association's helpline on 0845 123 2305. All helpliners are people with herpes simplex who are having successful sex lives ­ something that many patients believe they will be denied.

Also, doctors should be aware that caesarean sections are no longer performed even when a patient has an active recurrence (NICE guidelines). Maternal antibody protects the majority of babies born under such conditions. The risks to the baby have to be set against the risks to the mother (RCOG guidelines).

Marian Nicholson

Director

Herpes Viruses Association

www.herpes.org.uk

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