What is Herpes
The Herpes Simplex Virus is also known as HSV. It is the virus that causes herpes. Herpes can occur in different parts of the body, but it commonly occurs in the genitals and in the mouth. There are two types of HSV, namely, HSV-1 or oral herpes and HSV-2. HSV-1 is the cause of blisters and sores on the face and around the mouth. HSV-2 generally causes outbreaks of genital herpes.
The virus is very contagious and passes from one infected person to another through direct physical contact. Even children can contract HSV-1 when they come in contact with an infected person. The virus remains in the body for the rest of the life. Such infections can occur due to eating from the same plates or utensils and sharing lip balms or kissing. The virus is more contagious when the person undergoing the infection has an outbreak. Herpes is also contracted from an infected person who has cold sores and has sexual contact with another person.
Who is at Risk?
There is no age limit regarding the people who can get infected with Herpes. HSV can affect anyone at any age, even small children. The risk factor depends on the exposure of the person with the virus. However, in case of HSV that is sexually transmitted, people who take part in risky sexual activities are more prone to contract the infection. This includes people who don’t follow safe sex practices and don’t use condoms and so on. There are also other risk factors, such as in case of those who have multiple sex partners. People who already have some other STI are also at greater risk. Women are more at risk and if you already have a weak immune system, you are more likely to get the infection. If a mother has an outbreak of herpes during the time of childbirth, the baby can be exposed to the virus and this could lead to the infection being transmitted to the child.
HSV-1 and HSV-2
HSV-1 is associated with oral herpes and HSV-2 is associated with Genital Herpes. Both the viruses affect the mucosal surfaces, either in the mouth or in the genitals and then remain latent in the nervous system of the body. In both the cases, most of the infected people show no symptoms or the symptoms might be a little mild. In the both the infections, the infection recurs from time to time, even if there are no external symptoms.
The difference between HSV1 and HSV2 is that they establish their latency in different sites in the body. The HSV 1 virus establishes itself in the trigeminal ganglion region near the ear and recurs on the face or in the lower lip area. On the other hand, the HSV 2 virus resides latently in the sacral ganglion, which is found at the spine base. It typically recurs in the genitals. However, this difference cannot be taken on an absolute basis, as it can switch places, as the virus is essentially the same. The first type or HSV 1 is not associated with a stigma and is generally considered as merely a cold sore, whereas HSV 2 or genital herpes has a stigma attached to it.