Cold sores or “fever blisters” are actually a type of herpes, known as herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) or “oral herpes.” Breakouts often arise when the person is feeling stressed or overtired. HSV-1 outbreaks tend to occur less often than HSV-2. HSV-2 is often the cause of “genital herpes” but not always.
Let’s say that I have “oral herpes” or HSV-1, and I perform oral sex on my partner? Can he/she then contract HSV-1 on their genitals – YES! It is still HSV-1, just located “down there.” Stay with me…let’s say that I have genital herpes caused by HSV-2, and my partner goes down on me, can he/she then get HSV-2 in their mouth? YES again! It remains HSV-2, only it’s located in the mouth. Make sense?
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be released from the sores that the virus may cause but can also be spread between outbreaks from skin that does not have a sore. The virus simply comes to the surface and can spread to other people. Most people with HSV-2 are not even aware of the infection however if symptoms do appear it is usually within two weeks of infection but can also appear years after infection. While symptoms may be so mild that they are mistaken for insect bites or skin irritation, the first outbreak can be severe, painful and include flu-like symptoms and swollen glands.
Herpes can be diagnosed by visual inspection of a “typical outbreak”, taking samples from the sore or by the use of a blood test to detect antibodies to HSV-1 or HSV-2. While there is no cure, attacks can be minimized through antiviral medications taken during outbreaks or daily to suppress them. The number of outbreaks per year varies from person to person and is associated with stress levels and even sexual activity can bring on an outbreak.
Ever see that Valtrex commercial on TV where everyone has genital herpes and they’re so flippin’ happy? Consider this homework…next time you see that commercial stop what you’re doing and listen carefully – they note that 70% of people did not realize that they could spread the infection to their partners if an outbreak was not present. Although herpes and everything that it entails can be a disturbing thought to you or your loved one, there is some truth to that Valtrex commercial – if you happen to be one of the 1 out of 5 women or 1 out of 9 men who have herpes you still can live a very satisfying, happy and healthy life…and yes, this does include a sex life too! Antiviral medications can suppress outbreaks as well as transmission, so with a little precaution, the use of condoms and the right companion, you can still enjoy a lot of lovin’, all the while still being respectful to your partner(s).