Mouth/Oral Herpes vs. Genital Herpes

Since there are two different strains of the herpes virus, there is often a lot of confusion about the characteristics of each, what the two types have in common, and how they differ. The two strains of of the herpes simplex virus are called Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (often called HSV-1) and the Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (often called HSV-2). Here are the details about both strains of the herpes virus, as well as some tips on preventing the spread of the virus.

Herpes Simplex Type 1 (Oral Herpes)

Herpes Simplex Type 1, or HSV-1, is also called oral herpes because it is most commonly seen on the lips and mouth. Generally HSV-1 will first be noticed as a cold sore, or fever blister, on the lips. HSV-1 is the most commonly seen strain of the herpes virus and may be found in a large number of both adults and children.

HSV-1 is easily transmittable through contact with an infected person, most notably through saliva. While kissing is one common way to transmit the virus, it is also possible to transmit the virus in several other ways. Since the sores break open and begin to ooze liquid before the healing process begins, any contact with this sore can transfer the infection to another person.

It is also possible to transmit HSV-1 from one part of the body to another. If an infected person touches her lips and then rubs her eyes, the infection can be transmitted to the eyes. The HSV-1 virus can be found on the lips, inner mouth, face, hands, eyes and virtually any part of the body. HSV-1 can be passed to the genitals through oral sex. A rare complication of HSV-1 is meningoencephalitis, an infection of the brain lining.

Herpes Simplex Type 2 (Genital Herpes)

Herpes Simplex Type 2, or HSV-2, is also called genital herpes since it is found most frequently in the genital area. HSV-2 is spread through sexual contact and will generally be spread through genital to genital contact. However, HSV-2 can also be transferred to the mouth through oral sex. HSV-2 will usually be present as a group of sores in the genital area, but in some cases the virus may show no outward symptoms. For this reason, some people who contract HSV-2 are not aware that they are suffering from the virus. Even in cases where there is no outbreak and there is a total absence of symptoms, it is still possible for the virus to be transmitted to others.

Preventing the Spread of Herpes

To prevent spreading HSV-1 and HSV-2, close monitoring of symptoms and outbreaks is important. Since the virus, once contracted, cannot ever be completely eliminated from the body, it may lay dormant for long periods in between outbreaks. During outbreaks, it is important that a person with herpes avoids all sexual contact. A person who has herpes should not share forks, spoons, or drinking cups or glasses with others. It is important that herpes sufferers avoid touching or picking at herpes sores to prevent spreading to other people and other parts of the body. Frequent hand washing and keeping a close watch for symptoms are excellent ways to help prevent spreading the herpes virus.

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