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Transmission of HSV-2
Oct 11, 2002

Dr. Kull,

Is it possible to be infected with HSV-2 through oral sex. I had a receptive oral from an woman of unkowns status three months before. I have tested for HIV, result came negetive. Often I feel itchy over my body. Occassionally, little burning sensation while passing urine. I have no active visible lesion on Genitals. Could you please advise.

Thanks.

Response from Mr. Kull

There are two types of herpes simplex virus (HSV) that are categorized as HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 generally causes what are commonly known as cold sores or fever blisters: those uncomfortable, sometimes painful bumps you get around your mouth that are like blisters that scab over. HSV-2 generally causes what is commonly known as genital herpes. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are attracted to the skin and mucous membranes around the mouth and the genital region. The virus doesn't particularly care if it lives in the neighborhood of the mouth or the genitals, as long as it has some place to hang out and cause problems. So, a person with a HSV-1 cold sore on their mouth could transmit HSV-1 to the penis or vagina of a person they are performing oral sex on, and the same goes for HSV-2 being transmitted from the genitals to the mouth. HSV-2 may have a more severe course than HSV-1.

Almost 90 percent of Americans are infected with HSV-1, mostly through non-sexual contact. Approximately 45 million, or one out of five, Americans above 12 years of age are infected with HSV-2. Most people with HSV-2 are not aware of their infection and do not experience symptoms. Being diagnosed with a primary episode of genital herpes is a strong predictor of having recurrent episodes during the first year, but the frequency and severity of episodes usually decreases over time. Episodes can be very severe in people who are immune suppressed (HIV infected).

Herpes simplex virus is spread through skin-to-skin contact. There's really no point in worrying about infection with HSV unless you experience actual lesions or had sexual contact with someone who had active lesions. HSV infection doesn't cause itching all over your body.

For more information about herpes, you can call the National Herpes Hotline at (919)361-8488.

RMK



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