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What is Herpes simplex?

Herpes is a manageable disease that affects up to 80% of us – don’t let this virus dictate your life.

Learn how you can minimize the risks of transmission, manage your symptoms and reduce the stigma associated with herpes by promoting awareness and understanding.

Herpes is a virus that is normally spread by direct skin-to-skin contact with an actively infected area. The particular virus that is responsible for cold sores and genital herpes is called the Herpes simplex virus (HSV).

There are two types of the Herpes simplex virus:

  • Type 1 (HSV-1)
  • Type 2 (HSV-2)

Understanding the two herpes simplex types

HSV-1 or mouth herpes are commonly in the form of cold sores on or around the mouth, nose, face or surrounding areas. This type of herpes also causes Herpes Whitlow, a herpes infection of the fingers.

HSV-2 or genital herpes is a more intense strand of the Herpes simplex virus commonly found on the genitals, anus, buttocks, the lower back and surrounding areas.

However, BOTH of these virus types can cause herpes infections on the face, fingers, genitals or other body areas, depending on the strain of HSV that has caused the original infection.

The virus will not change into a different strand (for example, HSV Type 1 will not turn into HSV Type 2). However, a person can contract HSV-1 on the genitals through contact with a cold sore during oral sex, causing a genital herpes infection.

To determine which strand of the Herpes simplex virus is causing an infection proper testing is recommended, such as a “type specific” blood test or a culture (swab) test.