Herpes is a common and usually mild infection caused by a virus (herpes simplex virus). there are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV1 and HSV2. Both types cause similar symptoms, however, type 1 is usually found on the mouth (cold sores, or ‘oral herpes’) and type 2 is usually found on the genitals. it is possible for either virus to infect either location. Because both types prefer to infect mucous membranes (thin, moist, pink skin), it is unusual to develop symptoms in other areas.
Herpes is transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Someone is most likely to pass the virus to a partner during the prodrome period (right before an outbreak) or during an outbreak (when they have a rash and/or sore). However, herpes can also be spread when the infected person has no symptoms.
When someone has symptoms, it is called an outbreak. The signs of a herpes outbreak may include:
The very first outbreak may be more severe, and may include:
Some people my experience symptoms before an outbreak. This is called the prodrome period. Symptoms may include the tingling, itching and/or burning sensation.
Within a few days, a person may show symptoms, or it may take weeks, months or years. Herpes outbreaks may happen as often as monthly or as rarely as once in a lifetime. After the first outbreak, about one-third to one-half of all infected people never have another outbreak. Other people have frequent outbreaks. Herpes is very common: about 20% of adults in the U.S. have HSV-2. Many people infected with herpes don’t know they have it.
There is no cure for herpes. However, there are some things which can help make outbreaks shorter, less painful and less often.
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