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Understanding Herpes Simplex Viruses by Dina Imsirevic

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Herpes simplex viruses (HSV) are placed in two particular groups:  Type 1, oral herpes, and type 2, genital herpes.  HSV-1 is more common, but the two viral infections have many similarities.  The virus causes bumps, sores, or small blisters to appear either above or below the waist.  Even though the virus can appear anywhere on the body, HSV-1 is mostly seen in or around the mouth and nose.  The most common place for HSV-2 is around the genitals or rectum. The herpes simplex viruses are contagious and even though the infected person may not have any visible signs or symptoms present, it can still be spread to another individual. Proper care and treatment can prevent outbreaks, but there is currently no cure for either virus type.

HSV-1 is often referred to as a cold sore or fever blister.  This is because many individuals will have an outbreak when they have a cold or flu.  An outbreak can occur if a person is physically or mentally stressed.  Stress includes illness, hormonal changes such as menstruation, lethargy, direct sun exposure, and any other form that causes pressure or tension to the body. There are some warning symptoms that occur before a sore develops.  The lips will burn, itch, or tingle a day prior.  Other common symptoms are fever and sore throat.  A matured blister can break open and leak a yellow or clear fluid.  This blister can rapidly multiply, causing a larger and more visible sore.  HSV-1 can last up to two weeks without treatment; therefore, it is important that one seeks medication or another remedy.

HSV-2 is a sexually transmitted disease.  This virus occurs below the waist and is also easily spread from person to person.  A great deal of individuals will not know that they are infected with the virus.  They may mistake their outbreak to be another skin condition.  The sores or blisters will develop the same way that HSV-1 does.  An itchy and painful blister will appear in or around the genitals or rectum.  HSV-2 can also develop on one’s thighs and buttocks.  Transmission of the virus can occur through vaginal, anal, and oral sex and a person does not have to have an outbreak to spread the virus.  It is also important to know that HSV-1 can develop below the waist and HSV-2 can also develop in or around the lips or nose.

There is currently no cure for the herpes simplex viruses but precautions, medications, and remedies can be applied.  One should avoid direct contact with someone who has a sore.  Keeping the lips moisturized with a SPF lip balm and not sharing items, such as towels or utensils, can prevent an outbreak.   A washcloth can be applied to the lip or nose and a warm bath can also help relieve the discomfort and subdue the pain.  Proper usage of condoms can decrease the spreading of herpes.  If one has the virus, drugs like Valtrex, Zovirax, and Famvir can be prescribed to lessen the symptoms.

Symptoms can be moderate to severe and vary from person to person. Individuals who have a compromised or weak immune system may have more frequent outbreaks.  However, outbreaks lessen as year’s progress.  Once one is infected with the virus, it will lie dormant until another outbreak occurs.  Therefore it is very important to take precautions so that the spread of the herpes simplex viruses do not occur.

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Bridges, D. (2012, August 06). Herpes simplex: Herpes type 1 and 2. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/genital-herpes/pain-management-herpes

MedlinePlus. (2013, April 19). Genital herpes. Retrieved from http://nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/genitalherpes.html


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