No vac­cine yet for her­pes virus

Cape Breton Post - - LIFESTYLES -

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.

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