What You Need to Know About the Herpes Simplex Virus

by Michael Griffin
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The Herpes Simplex virus comes in two different forms: HSV-1 or oral herpes and HSV-2 known as genital herpes. HSV-1 involves sores around the mouth and lips that we sometimes call cold sores. This type of herpes can spread to other’s genitalia, however most HSV-2 infections are caused by HSV-2, which is located primarily below the waist. So how can herpes be spread from one individual to another? Herpes simplex type 1 can spread through any mouth contact during an outbreak. When sharing toothbrushes, kissing, or oral sex can spread the virus from one infected person to a non-infected person. HSV-2 is much more difficult to spread and can only be given through sexual contact with the sore located on the genitals or anus.

The most important thing to know is that BOTH HSV-1 and HSV-2 can spread even if the sores are not visible or present at the time of contact. 

The sores are not always present because people with herpes can go through periods where their symptoms are dormant. Different things can cause attacks or outbreaks some of them are: illness, fatigue, stress, autoimmune problems, and sexual activity. A commonly asked question is: How can I find out whether I have herpes or not if I am not showing symptoms? Often most people do not find out they are infected until their first outbreak and no testing is needed to confirm this diagnosis, health care providers can tell on sight usually. The disease can be diagnosed with lab tests using different cultures. Unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes the virus lies dormant in the nerve cells until something triggers it into action again. There are different medications that can provide comfort to those suffering from an outbreak and help to decrease outbreaks in general. If you or your partner have contracted herpes here’s what to do to prevent spreading:
  • Avoid sexual activity when you have sores on your genitals or feel an outbreak coming on
  • If you have HSV-2 but no mouth sores you can perform oral sex on your partner safely.
  • Find other ways to express sexuality like mutual masturbation or the use of toys (be sure not to share)
The bottom line with herpes is this: even if your partner is not having an outbreak and you are using protection, herpes can still spread. Antiviral drug therapy can help someone with herpes reduce the amount of the virus they shed helping to keep their partner from becoming infected, a condom should still be used additionally since this therapy is only 50% effective.  

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