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Herpes Simplex

The herpes simplex virus (HSV) can cause blisters and sores almost anywhere on the skin. These sores usually occur either around the mouth and nose or the genitals and buttocks.

There are two types of HSV:

  • Typically HSV-1 causes cold sores. Most people get Type 1 infections during infancy or childhood. They usually catch it from close contact with family members or friends who carry the virus. The sores most commonly affect the lips, mouth, nose, chin and cheeks and occur shortly after exposure.
  • HSV-2 virus causes gential sores. Most people get type 2 infection following sexual contact with an infected person. However, both viruses are increasingly involved in infections of all areas.

Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1

Also known as fever blisters or cold sores, HSV-1 infections are tiny, clear, fluid-filled blisters that most often occur on the face. There are two kinds of infections- primary and recurrent. Although most people are infected with the virus, only 10 percent will actually develop sores or blisters when this infection occurs. Recurrent infections tend to be milder than primary infections. They can be set off by a variety of factors including fever, sun exposure and menstruation. However, for many the recurrence is unpredictable and has no recognizable cause.

Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2

Infection with HSV-2 usually results in sores on the buttocks, penis, vagina, or cervix two to twenty days after contact with an infected person.

How are herpes infections treated?

Oral anti-viral medications such as acyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir can effectively treat herpes infections.

How do you prevent transmission?

Between 200,000 and 500,000 people "catch" genital herpes each year. The number of Type 1 infections is many times higher. There is no vaccine that prevents this contagious disease, but other methods of prevention before and during an outbreak are important.

If tingling, burning, itching, or tenderness occurs in an area of the body where there is a herpes infection, the area should be kept away from other people.