Genital herpes is a highly contagious sexually transmitted disease. Genital herpes is common, affecting both men and women. Features of genital herpes include pain, itching and sores in your genital area. The cause of genital herpes is a strain of herpes simplex virus (HSV), which enters your body through small breaks in your skin or mucous membranes. Sexual contact is the primary way that the virus spreads. There’s no cure for this recurrent infection, which may cause embarrassment and emotional distress.