Health protection – guidance

Genital herpes

The characteristics, surveillance, epidemiology and diagnosis of genital herpes.

Genital herpes is caused by the genital herpes simplex virus (HSV). It is the most common ulcerative sexually transmitted infection in the UK.

The virus can cause severe systemic disease in neonates (newborn infants) and the immunosuppressed and it may facilitate HIV transmission. Many HSV infections are subclinical (not detectable), as there are no signs or symptoms of disease.

There are 2 distinct subtypes of HSV:

  • type 2, which is almost exclusively associated with genital infection
  • type 1, which primarily causes oral herpes (or cold sores), but can also cause genital infections

For symptoms and general information on genital herpes, visit NHS Choices.

Data collection

Genitourinary medicine clinic activity dataset (GUMCADv2) collects STI information from GUM clinics and other commissioned non-GUM sexual health services.


Sexual and reproductive health profiles: interactive maps, charts and tables.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): annual data tables.

HIV and STI: data sharing policy.

GUMCADv2: data request form.


Seromolecular services unit (SSU) provides reference services for HSV type 1 (HSV1) and type 2 (HSV2).

Antiviral unit (AVU) provides HSV antiviral resistance testing.

Management and treatment

The British Association for Sexual Health & HIV (BASHH) issues UK national guidelines for the diagnosis, treatment and management of all sexually transmitted infections.

Read PHE’s guidance on managing outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections: