No vaccine yet for herpes virus
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: When I was diagnosed with herpes simplex type-2, I was distressed. I wonder how close we are to having a vaccine for it and would a vaccine cure the virus? How about the drug bavituximab? Could it be the solution? I am looking for words of encouragement to get through the diagnosis of this incurable viral disease. Do medicines such as acyclovir and Valtrex help stop recurring outbreaks? — L.
ANSWER: Herpes simplex virus type-1 (the cause of cold sores) and herpes virus type-2 (the cause of genital infection) are lifelong infections. The virus hides out in body cells and, from time to time, wakes from sleep to cause another infectious episode. That is discouraging news. However, infection with the type-2 virus does not mean people are condemned to celibacy or that women cannot have children safely.
People with herpes-2 need to inform partners that they are infected. Transmission of infection is greatest when there is an outbreak, so relations should not take place then. Transmission is possible even when there are no visible signs of infection, and that’s why it’s imperative to tell a partner. Condoms reduce the transmission risk, but do not completely eliminate it.
Researchers are working on a vaccine for herpes. Whether it will be effective for eradicating an established infection isn’t known.
Bavituximab is a drug currently undergoing trials for treatment of hepatitis C and the HIV virus. It destroys body cells that harbor the virus, so it does offer promise of curing latent infections like herpes. Herpes is one of the viruses targeted for trials with this drug. It’s also an anticancer drug.
Acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex) do prevent recurrences of herpes. People with many recurrences should avail themselves of these medicines. They also lessen the chances of transmission. They don’t, however, eliminate the sleeping virus.
The booklet on herpes explains this infection in depth. To obtain a copy, write: Dr. Donohue — No. 1202, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a cheque or money order (no cash) for $6 Cdn with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Please settle an argument between me and my friend. She says that once you have LASIK surgery, you can never have surgery for cataracts. If this is so, the young people who are having it are in for big trouble in their senior years. Is this true? Doctors should warn people if it is. — G.P.
ANSWER: It’s not true. People who have LASIK surgery — the surgery that reshapes the cornea so that people can get rid of their glasses and contact lenses — can have cataract surgery if they ever come to need it.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My letter is about amendments to the Patients’ Bill of Rights and the frequent disregard doctors have toward their patients. If a patient is five minutes late, the receptionist is on the phone asking where that patient is. When the patient arrives, that person is subjected to a reminder that he or she is late. Sometimes there is, “ You may wait if you wish to see if the doctor can fit you in.” I believe that the Patients’ Bill of Rights should include a statement that if the doctor is more than an hour behind, the patient has a right to reschedule with no fee. I also believe that the doctor should be required to explain the name, reason for and the outcome of any test ordered, and that the patient be given a copy of the results. I maintain that the major problems with health care today are inefficiencies, fraud, fear of litigation and overwork. — E.D.
ANSWER: I don’t disagree with you. I hope all of what you say is carefully considered and that appropriate changes are made.
I can say in defense of doctors, however, that emergencies occur more often than people realize, and those emergencies throw the best-regulated offices into disarray. Waiting patients should be told about them and be given the option to rebook.