WHAT IS IT?
There are 2 types of “alpha” herpes that are very common, HSV-1 and HSV-2. When active, such as in the form of a cold sore or genital outbreak, HSV-1 and/or HSV-2 are very contagious. They are very similar viruses and can both affect the mouth, genitals and other parts of the body.
There are some misperceptions. HSV-1 is sometimes called “oral herpes” but about 50% of genital herpes outbreaks may be caused by HSV-1.
It is likely that more than half of all Americans have HSV-1 and about one-quarter have HSV-2. Herpes is not curable and can be painful, but if treated, it is seldom serious.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Sores can form at the site of infection (usual mouth or genital area) and can spread to other parts of the body. There is often a tingling or itching at the infection site prior to a sore forming.
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
Herpes is relatively easy to transmit and an infection on your mouth in the form of a cold sore is annoying and can cause stigma because it is so visible. Genital outbreaks can be even more troublesome. Herpes can spread to different parts of your body, and the type (oral or genital) doesn’t confine the area where outbreaks can occur, although there is usually a primary outbreak at the original point of infection.
HOW CAN I PREVENT TRANSMISSION?
The fist prevention rule is not to touch sores to skin, Whether the sores are on you or your partner. This includes kissing, oral sex, etc.
The second thing to remember is that herpes can be transmitted even when a sore isn’t present, though it is much less likely than when there is a sore. So, if possible, avoid touching suspected herpes sores/rashes to skin. Showering before and after sexual contact is also a good idea.
DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
For many infected people, using antiviral medication (Acyclovir, etc.) at the onset of an outbreak (tingling and itching at the infection site) can prevent lesions from forming.
Rarely, HSV-1 and/or 2 can lead to significant health issues. Discuss this with your doctor.