STDs Expert Forum
Flu-like symptoms?
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The STD Forum is intended only for questions and support pertaining to sexually transmitted diseases other than HIV/AIDS, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, human papillomavirus, genital warts, trichomonas, other vaginal infections, nongonoccal urethritis (NGU), cervicitis, molluscum contagiosum, chancroid, and pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). All questions will be answered by H. Hunter Handsfield, M.D. or Edward W Hook, MD.

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Flu-like symptoms?

I am a 28-year-old female, and a few weeks ago I had protected intercourse with a male partner.  2-3 days later I developed a sore throat, swollen glands, and general cold-like symptoms (but no genital lesions).  Last weekend I had protected intercourse with another partner, while I was still recovering from my cold.  A few days later he contracted the same symptoms - sore throat and swollen glands.

I have read that sometimes herpes and other STDs manifest in flu-like symptoms.  My questions:

1) What are the chances of my contracting herpes from one act of intercourse with a condom (no oral sex)?

2) If I did contract an STD, how likely is it that I would manifest flu-like symptoms without any accompanying genital lesions?  (I did notice two isolated pimples, several inches apart, outside my genital region, but they didn't seem to match the description of traditional "herpes" lesions.)

3) Should I be worried that my second partner's flu-like symptoms could be evidence that I contracted something from my first partner, and then transmitted it to him?  Or could it be a common cold virus transmitted by kissing?

Thank you so much for your time.





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You can relax.  Almost certainly you're dealing with one or more garden-variety respiratory viruses, not an STD.  Herpes in particular is unlikley.  Herpes indeed can cause flu-like symptoms, but only at the same time as obvious herpes symptoms, i.e. painful genital sores.  In fact, when there are flu-like symptoms, typically the genital symptoms are truly horrible, by far the worst part of the symptoms.  And as you imply yourself in the very last question, having sex is plenty close contact to transmit a cold or flu virus!

To the specific questions:

1) Even in couples in which one person is known to have genital herpes due to HSV-2 and the other does not, the risk of transmission during any particular sexual episode probably averages less than 1 in 1,000.

2) Almost no chance.  See above.

3) Your second partner's symptoms suggest he caught the same respiratory virus that you caught--maybe from your first partner, but equally likely from a co-worker or friend.

Bottom line:  If none of the three of you develops genital symptoms, I truly wouldn't worry about any of this.

Best wishes--  HHH, MD
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