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Herpes Facts, Transmission
and Symptoms

What is herpes?

Herpes is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), of which there are two types: herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex 2 (HSV-2). While the viruses themselves are different, they cause similar symptoms. HSV-1 outbreaks usually occur in the oral region (cold sores/fever blisters), but can also be found in the genital region. HSV-2 outbreaks are normally located in the genital and anal areas, but can cause oral infections.

How is herpes transmitted?

Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with an area of someone who is infected. The most common areas for HSV symptoms to occur are mucosal surfaces (mouth, throat, genital skin, etc.). Herpes is not transmitted through inanimate objects (toilet seats, towels, etc.).

What are the symptoms of herpes?

The classic herpes outbreak consists of an itching or tingling sensation usually accompanied by blisters or ulcers; however, not everyone who has herpes will experience these symptoms. If symptoms do occur, it is usually within two to twenty days after the initial infection. People who do not experience symptoms may still able to transmit the virus through a process known as asymptomatic viral shedding, so it is still important to get tested even if no signs or outbreaks are present.

Can herpes be treated or cured?

Herpes cannot be cured; however, it can be suppressed with antiviral treatment.  Antiviral medication can reduce the frequency and severity of outbreaks for people with either HSV-1 or HSV-2. Treatment is also thought to reduce the frequency of viral shedding. In most cases herpes does not cause serious or life threatening health complications.


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