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cold sores = genital herpes?

Jun 14, 2001

are they both the same virus? aren't they two different simplex herpes types? in oral sex, can someone with a cold sore on the lips transmit the herpes virus to another person and have it manifest as genital herpes and/or lip cold sores (even though their lips made no contact with the performing person)? vice versa? if someone were to be infected with hiv through herpes contact would they necessarily display the same kind of herpes shortly thereafter? (sorry to be confusing i'm just trying to get specifics)

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 of a person they are performing oral sex on, and vice-versa. 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. Active lesions can be quite contagious. Some infected people may "shed" the virus without symptoms about 1% of the time, possibly transmitting the virus without having any symptoms (this is not proven).

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


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