Herpes may be more common than you think. Did you know that approximately 50-80% of the population can be diagnosed with oral herpes? And that approximately 20% of the population has contracted or carries genital herpes? But what exactly is herpes? And what are the risk factors for contracting or transmitting herpes?
What is herpes?
The herpes simplex virus (HSV) that causes oral and genital herpes belongs to the family of viruses that causes mononucleosis (mono), chickenpox, and shingles. The herpes simplex virus is contracted for life, and is characterized by periods of latency followed by outbreaks. After initial infection, the herpes virus attaches itself to nerves, from which it is intractable.
Most people don't know that both herpes simplex virus 1 and herpes simplex virus 2 can cause either genital or oral herpes. Let's take a look at each of type of viral infections to get a better understanding of herpes, its risk factors and how it is spread.
HSV 1 - Herpes simplex virus type 1
Herpes simplex virus type 1 most commonly causes oral herpes. Oral herpes may be contracted by kissing someone such as a friend or a relative. People with oral herpes often experience cold sores around the mouth, or face (such as the eye or cheek). Less common herpes infections are of the skin near the breasts, hands, and infection of the central nervous system.
HSV 2 - Herpes simplex virus type 2
Herpes simplex virus type 2 most frequently causes genital herpes. Genital herpes can be contracted through sexual activity, including oral sex, when the infected area comes into contact with a tear in the skin wall. Newborn babies can contract herpes from their mothers during birth or if the breast area is infected, although this is a rare but very serious condition that can develop into herpes encephalitis (a brain infection) and require caesarean section delivery.
Do you think that you might have herpes? Keep reading. In the next section, we'll discuss the common symptoms of herpes. To learn more about these symptoms, read the "Herpes Symptoms" section that follows.