Frequently Asked Questions about Herpes/HSV 1

What is Herpes/HSV 1?

Herpes is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus and can be found in two different types, Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV 1) and Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV 2.) Type 1 is oral herpes and type 2 is genital herpes. Both types are highly contagious during an active outbreak.

How high is the rate of new infections or Herpes/HSV 1?

HSV 1 infections are more common than HSV 2 infections, with the majority of the world's population having been exposed to HSV 1. Most people contract HSV 1 in childhood from contact with infected people, but infections can also be attributed to contact in adulthood.

How is Herpes/HSV 1 contracted?

Oral Herpes are typically contracted through kissing, skin to skin contact, or sharing items that are used orally like a spoon. HSV 1 can also infect the genitals during oral sex. HSV 2 is spread through sexual contact or passed from mother to child during childbirth.

What are the symptoms of Herpes/HSV 1?

HSV 1 symptoms are mainly cold sores or fever blisters around the mouth. Genital Herpes presents other symptoms, including:

  • Blisters that turn into sores once they burst
  • Red patches and cracking skin
  • Burning or itchy skin
  • Burning when urinating due to the sores
  • Headaches and backaches
  • Flu-like symptoms consisting of fever and fatigue

What are the consequences of allowing Herpes/HSV 1 to go untreated?

Many people live their lives without knowing about their Herpes infection, but infants that have been exposed to the virus require treatment of the infection could be fatal. Adults who do not seek treatment for HSV outbreaks risk worsening symptoms or more frequent outbreaks.

What tests are performed to diagnose Herpes/HSV 1?

The Herpes virus can be detected in several ways:

  • A physical examination of an active breakout
  • Culture tests that involve swabbing a sore and testing in for HSV
  • Blood tests that detect HSV

Are there kits to test for Herpes/HSV 1 at home?

There at-home STD test kits that can test for HSV, but the results are sometimes unreliable. Testing through a doctor's office is the best choice, though it has to be done in person.

Who should be tested for Herpes/HSV 1?

Anyone who presents with symptoms of oral or genital herpes, has had contact with a person with HSV, or has been diagnosed with another STD should be tested for HSV 1 and 2.

What should a person infected with Herpes/HSV 1 do after they are diagnosed?

Once diagnosed with HSV 2, you should contact all sexual partners, so they can be tested for the virus. You should be mindful of your diagnosis and take care not to have sexual relations during an outbreak, and use protection even when symptoms are present. Also, inform doctors of the diagnosis, especially if you are pregnant. HSV 1 infections should also be disclosed to partners to make them aware of the risk of infection.

What are the treatment options for Herpes/HSV 1?

There are many antiviral medications that can help treat Herpes outbreaks and lower the risk of infection, but there is no cure for HSV 1 or 2. Most HSV 1 outbreaks do not require prolonged medication and will be treated with a short-term topical medicine to clear up sores.

What precautions should be taken to prevent spreading Herpes/HSV 1 to others?

Because HSV is a lifelong infection, managing the virus means to keep from infecting others. Individuals with HSV 1 infections should:

  • Avoid kissing when sores are present
  • Avoid sharing silverware, straws, or lip balm
  • Avoid oral sex when symptoms are present
  • Avoid contact if there are signs (burning or tingling) of an impending outbreak, but no sores or blisters

Individuals with Genital Herpes should avoid all sexual contact when sores or blisters are present, and use a condom every time there is sexual contact to help prevent spreading the infection to their partner.