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Many people don’t realize that herpes actually describes two separate viral diseases.
Herpes simplex type 1 or Oral Herpes causes blisters mainly around the mouth, but occasionally spreads elsewhere. Breakouts of oral herpes are also called “cold sores” or “fever blisters.”
Oral herpes is a VERY common infection. Though some carriers may never or only very rarely experience an outbreak of the associated sores around their mouth, the latest estimates show 57.7% of people in the US are infected. It is actually more likely that you ARE a carrier of Herpes type 1 than that you aren’t!
This type of herpes is transmittable through contact with the saliva or the herpes blisters (cold sores) of an infected person. This said – yes, it is entirely possible to get herpes from kissing. It is also possible, though less common, that herpes type 1 might spread to genital regions through oral sex.
Herpes simplex type 2 or Genital Herpes causes blisters mainly around the genitalia, but very rarely elsewhere on the body. It is the second most common herpes infection with the latest estimates showing 16.2% of the US population are carriers.
The spread of genital herpes occurs mainly through sexual contact (vaginal, oral or anal) with an infected person. Transmission can occur even though the infected person may have no blisters at the time. Genital herpes can spread to the mouth through oral sex.
Once you have contracted either type of herpes virus you will be a carrier for life. However, both types tend to become less severe with the passing of time and though they may still be contagious to others, many times people stop having breakouts at all.
Kissing isn't the only way to spread herpes.
The main areas that are easily affected are moist areas, such as the mouth, throat, lips, vagina, vulva and eyes. Blood is also a highly contagious factor that can spread herpes. Even after the sores have healed, the skin can shed the herpes virus and spread to others. It's not until all of the scabs have fallen off that the skin is normal again.
Despite the myths, no, you cannot get herpes from toilets, towels, wash cloths, swimming pools, bathtubs and washing machines.
The time between transmission of genital herpes and the appearance of symptoms can range from 2 to 20 days. The first signs are itching and/or pain with sores appearing a few days later.
For cold sores or oral herpes, transmission results in asymptomatic infection (infection WITHOUT any symptoms) twice as often as it does symptomatic infection (infection WITH symptoms). For those that do develop symptoms, typically occur between 2 and 12 days after contact with an infected person.
Itching, tingling, burning or pain sensations on the affected area of the skin are usually the first signs of the herpes virus. This can happen just hours before blisters appear, but may begin as much as a few days also known as prodrome - symptoms before the outbreak). You may also experience one or more of the following:
Most of the time, these symptoms will subside after three weeks, but can leave faster if using treatments.
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