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old cold sore and oral sex

Sep 30, 2001

Dear Ryan, I, too, must thank you for the invaluable information and insightful advice your provide in this forum. My concern is this:

Last night, I received oral sex (I was the insertive partner) from a man. He had sucked my penis a few (2-3) minutes and kissed the side of it a couple of times before I noticed a dark spot on his skin, just beside the corner of his mouth. It was difficult to see at first, because he had a mustasch. I stopped him and asked him what the spot was, and he said that he had a cold. This spot was evidently an "old" cold sore (it had a scab on it)! Now I am extremely worried that I've been infected with the herpes virus because of this exposure!

Please advise me on the odds of my being infected by this encounter. I have always tried to be extremely careful and practice only safe sex (mutual mastubation and occasional insertive oral sex). I have never had a STD before and am very afraid now.

Response from Mr. Kull

It is difficult to say if you were exposed to herpes simplex virus 1 (presuming that HSV-1 was the cause of the sore you saw on his lip) because it is possible that the sore was no longer infectious. It is possible to transmit HSV-1 to the genital region, but some sources report that HSV-1 in the genital region tends to have a less severe course than HSV-2 infections (the type that generally causes genital herpes lesions). See my response to "Cold sore=genital herpes" (

It is estimated that 90% of Americans are infected with HSV-1, which means that there is a good chance you've been exposed to HSV-1 before. Having HSV-1 may provide some protection from new infections because you already have antibodies that could protect you from new infections.


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