Herpes is an incurable sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are many types of the Herpes simplex virus. The two most common are Herpes simplex virus' 1 and 2. The first, HSV- type 1 causes blisters to occur on the mouth or on the face. The second, HSV- type 2 causes genital herpes and is also responsible for chickenpox, shingles, and mononucleosis. Under a microscope HSV-1 and 2 look virtually identical and share 50% of their DNA. . Both types infect the body's mucosal surfaces, usually the mouth and genitals, and then establish latency in the nervous system. One little known fact is that both types of Herpes can cause oral and genital infections. Once infected with HSV, people remain infected for life.
Herpes simplex virus type 1 and 2 are both transmitted through direct contact, including kissing, sexual contact (vaginal, oral, or anal sex), and skin to skin contact (including masturbation). The symptoms and effects of the herpes simplex 1 virus are fever blisters that occur either individually or in-groups along the inside layer of the mouth. The Herpes simplex 2 virus' symptoms and effects are characterized by clusters of vesicles and lesions that can occur on both the exterior pubic areas of the body and inside the urethra.
Recent studies show that the herpes infection is very common in the United States. Approximately 50-80% of adults have oral herpes and around 20% of adults and adolescents are infected with genital herpes. Nationwide 45 million people age 12 and older are affected with genital herpes.
One fact that is not very known is that these symptoms are not always present but occur in outbreaks that are spontaneous and unpredictable. It is estimated that a large number of people are infected with the herpes virus without knowing it. Most likely these people contracted the virus without ever having an outbreak and thus not knowing they have the disease. Another important thing is that a person infected with the virus does not have to be in an outbreak (showing symptoms) for the herpes virus to transmit from one person to another. The three facts mentioned above are particularly scary because they show the potential of the herpes virus to spread and spread without anyone even taking notice.
HSV 1 and 2 are pretty much the same disease. You can have type 1 genitally or orally, however there is a stigma if you have genital herpes because it's associated with sex. The myth is that Herpes 1 causes a mild infection that is never dangerous. This is true when it infects the lips, face, or genitals. There are times however when it can recur spontaneously in the eye, causing ocular herpes, an infection that can lead to blindness. In rare cases it can spread to the brain causing herpes encephalitis, an infection that can lead to death. Some experts therefore believe that your average "cold sore" is more risky than usually perceived.
By comparison, HSV 2 is believed to be a painful, dangerous infection that affects people with very active sex lives. But this is not the case. Type 2 rarely causes complications or spreads to other parts of the body. It is the most common cause of neonatal herpes, a rare but dangerous infection in newborns; however one third of neonatal infections is caused by type 1. Therefore genital herpes is no more dangerous than a cold sore.
Although there are risks involved, overall a herpes infection is not a fatal infection.
At the present time there is no cure for herpes. There are antiviral medicines that can shorten and prevent outbreaks as long as the medication is taken. The best protection is the use of latex condoms. However, they do not provide complete protection. Abstinence is best if lesions are present.