DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Please, give me all the information possible about herpes. I am a carrier. — D.N.
ANSWER: I take it you’re interested in genital herpes — herpes simplex virus-2, HSV-2. The first encounter with the virus leads to an outbreak of tiny, painful blisters on red patches on the genital skin. Fever, headache, muscle pain and pain on urination often are also experienced with a first outbreak. Recurrent attacks are not as severe. Fever, headache and muscle pain do not accompany subsequent outbreaks, but the skin signs are painful.
The first year of infection is a year of more frequent outbreaks. After that, they come less often. If a person is subject to many outbreaks, that person can suppress them by taking Zovirax, Famvir or Valtrex at the first inklings that an outbreak is about to take place. For recurrence after recurrence, a person can go on daily doses of these medicines to keep outbreaks in check.
Once infected, a person stays infected for life. That person is a carrier.
Transmission is a huge problem. Even when a person has no signs of an outbreak, he or she can pass the virus to a partner. Therefore, all sexual partners should be told about the infection. Condoms, while not 100 percent protective, afford a major degree of safety. When a visible outbreak takes place, the infected person ought not to engage in sexual contact.
You are not alone. The herpes-2 virus infects up to 20 percent of the adult population of North America. Bad as it is, it is not the end of life or the end of a sex life.
The booklet on herpes infection provides a more detailed discussion of this common malady. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 1202W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Will you explain to me why a doctor would refuse to give a patient a shot of vitamin B-12? My former doctor, now deceased, gave me a monthly B-12 shot, and it kept me peppy. My new doctor says I don’t need the shots. Would they hurt me? — B.A.
ANSWER: The shots won’t hurt you. However, you need them only if you have a proven B-12 deficiency. At one time it was a widespread but not endorsed practice to give people shots of vitamin B-12 to energize them. It’s a practice that never should have been started.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My mother made all her children chew their food at least 25 times. She claimed that it helped food digest. I gave this up when I left home at 18. Is there any evidence that chewing that number of times aids digestion? — H.H.
ANSWER: The object of chewing is to reduce the size of food so it can be swallowed easily and to mix saliva with the food for the same reason. Saliva starts the digestive process.
I have never heard that a prescribed number of chews is necessary to accomplish these goals.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.