Herpes is caused by infection with the HSV (herpes simplex). The virus can cause blisters to form in the mouth or genitals, as well as other symptoms. HSV is a virus that causes genital and oral herpes. HSV-1 causes oral herpes, which normally affects the mouth and surrounding areas. Even if an individual never shows symptoms, they can still have an HSV infection for the rest their lives. Symptoms will indicate the type of HSV. Herpes is not curable but a cure could help manage symptoms and reduce the chances of it happening again.
HSV is the virus that occurs most frequently. According to WHO, around 67% of people worldwide have HSV-1 and 11% HSV-2 infections. Herpes simplex viruses (HSVs) are divided into two types: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 usually causes fever blisters, or cold sores in the mouth. Type 2 usually leads to sores around the genitals. It is possible to have both types of sores, type 1 on your lips and type 2, on your genitals. Herpes Zoster can lead to shingles or chickenpox. Genital herpes (GH) is a sexually-transmitted infection (STI). You will have the virus for life if you get infected. (1)
HSV-1 or oral herpes can be contracted or transmitted through direct contact with the sores, saliva or other bodily fluids during an outbreak. You may not realize that someone could contract the virus by coming into direct contact with an infected area. Direct exposure can include:
- Oral sex
- Another skin-toskin contact
If you touch your partner’s cold-sore and then touch your own genitals, or face, shortly afterwards, you may contract the virus. The virus is usually contracted by children after they are kissed or touched on the face of an adult with a cold sore. This virus can be spread by sharing lip balm or eating utensils, but it is not common. Older estimates suggest that the virus may only survive outside your body for up to 24 hours. You could contract herpes if someone with a cold sore drinks from a glass that they suddenly hand to you. The risk is low.
The virus is usually transmitted through contact with the sores, or by shedding the virus. HSV-1 can cause HSV-2 or genital Herpes if you come into contact with the sores, saliva or other body secretions during an outbreak. HSV-2 can also be transmitted while the virus is shed. Direct contact can include:
- Oral sex
- Penetrative sex
- Sharing sex toy during a sexual encounter
- Another skin-toskin contact at infection site
Many people mistakenly believe that HSV-2 is genital and HSV-1 is oral. Both viruses can cause genital and oral herpes.