The Differences Between HSV1 and HSV2 , Oral Herpes and Genital Herpes

hsv1 and hsv2
hsv1 and hsv2

Most people are aware of the herpes virus, knowing generally what it is and how they can contract the disease.  However, there are many misconceptions and lack of detailed knowledge regarding this highly contagious virus that can contribute to its being passed on from person to person.  One of the areas of confusion has to do with the differences between the two types of the herpes simplex virus, HSV1 and HSV2.

Herpes simplex is a viral disease caused by the herpes simplex virus.  Anyone can become infected by the herpes virus through physical contact and the exchange of body fluids with an infected person whether the infected individual is exhibiting the symptoms of herpes or not.  Many people carry the herpes virus and are unaware that they are infected.

There are two types of the herpes simplex virus that are categorized by the part of the body that is infected.  The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1), or more commonly called oral herpes, is an infection of the mouth or face.  The herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV2), referred to as genital herpes, is an infection of the genital area and other areas below the waist.  HSV1 and HSV2 are virtually identical in their make-up, sharing approximately 50% of their DNA.  Both viruses affect the body’s mucus surfaces and then establish latency in the nervous system.  Both viruses can recur and be spread even when no symptoms are present.

The primary difference between the two viral strains is where in the body they typically establish latency.  HSV1, or oral herpes, commonly resides in a collection of nerves near the ear and recurs on the lower lip, around the mouth or on the face.  HSV2 establishes itself in nerves at the base of the spine and recurs in the genital area, hence commonly referred to as genital herpes.  The two types of herpes do behave somewhat differently based on where they reside, but both types are highly contagious, very common and under most circumstances do not pose a major health threat.

Oral herpes is the strain of herpes virus that typically causes small, pimple-like sores or fever blisters around or near the mouth or eyes.  Oral herpes is commonly contracted during childhood through physical contact with adults carrying the virus through kissing or other physical contacts with someone having a visible cold sore or fever blister.  Oral herpes can be spread to the genitals through oral sex.  The HSV1 virus is estimated to affect 40% to 60% of the adult population in developed countries and up to 80% of the population in third world countries.

Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections around the globe.  HSV2 is primarily spread through direct skin contact during sexual activity and presents as open sores or blisters around the genitals.  HSV2 can also be spread to the mouth and throat through oral sex.  About one in six Americans are infected with HSV2, but some people may be asymptomatic and many are not aware that they have the virus.

If you or someone you know believes they may have contracted HSV1 or HSV2, you should seek out the services of a medical professional to confirm the diagnosis and prescribe treatment.  Comparing with the herpes pictures to see what does herpes look like cannot help you confirm whether you have herpes or not.  Besides, you should also learn more about the herpes virus and how to best prevent spreading the disease.