Both oral herpes (usually contracted from Herpes Simplex Virus I/HSV-1) and genital herpes (usually contracted from Herpes Simplex Virus II/HSV-2) are incurable sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Oral herpes is very common in the United States, –roughly 80 percent of the population has the virus– but many people do not know that they can pass it on to their partners as genital herpes.
Oral and genital herpes are viral diseases that live in the body’s nerves. They often lie dormant for varying periods of time. When an individual has a live infection, it is easier to transmit the virus to others, but herpes can still be transmitted whether or not symptoms are present. Symptoms are present in only about one-third of cases. Both oral and genital herpes are caused by herpes type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes type 2 (HSV-2).
Oral herpes is an infection that typically affects the lips and mouth, and causes cold sores or fever blisters. Most cases of oral herpes are caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus I strain (HSV-1). It is spread usually by kissing or activities like sharing drinks, but can also be spread by contact to an affected area via shedding. Shedding is the term used when the virus is active and replicates itself on the skin’s surface. These affected cells can rub off on another person and transmit the virus.
If an individual with an active HSV-1 infection performs oral sex on their partner they can transfer the infection to their partner’s genitals, causing genital herpes. HSV-1 transmitted during fellatio, cunnilingus, or analingus is a case of genital herpes.
HSV-2 is usually the strain of herpes responsible for causing genital herpes, but genital cases caused by HSV-1 are becoming more common as oral sex is becoming less taboo. Approximately one-fifth of the U.S. population older than the age of 13 has genital herpes. Genital herpes is most commonly spread during vaginal or anal sex, however, an individual with genital herpes can spread it to their partner’s mouth, causing them to contract oral herpes.
Genital herpes symptoms include painful sores or lesions that begin as fluid-filled blisters that crust over as time passes. They can appear on or near the genitals, buttocks, thighs and anus.
Both types of herpes can be transmitted when no symptoms are present. Avoid having any form of sex with anyone who has a sore on their genitals, anus or mouth to help avoid contracting these two contagious viruses. Latex or polyurethane condoms can help lower the risk of transmission of genital herpes for those who are sexually active, but because condoms do not cover all of the area that may be infected, genital HSV-1 and HSV-2 can still be contracted while using a condom.
AThe only way to know for sure if you have HSV-1 or HSV-2 is to get tested for HSV-1 and HSV-2.