The herpes simplex virus (HSV) can cause blisters and sores almost anywhere on the skin. These sores usually occur either around the mouth and nose, or on the genitals and buttocks. HSV infections can be very annoying because they can reappear periodically, and the sores may be painful and unsightly. For chronically ill people and newborn babies, the viral infection can be serious, but it is rarely fatal.
There are two types of HSV: Type 1 and Type 2. The Type 1 virus causes cold sores. Most people get Type 1 infections during infancy or childhood and usually catch it from close contact with family members or friends who carry the virus. It can be transmitted by kissing, sharing eating utensils or by sharing towels. The sores most commonly affect the lips, mouth, nose, chin or cheeks and occur shortly after exposure. Patients may barely notice any symptoms or need medical attention for relief of pain.
The Type 2 virus causes genital sores. Most people get Type 2 infections following sexual contact with an infected person. The virus affects anywhere between 5 and 20 million people, or up to 20 percent of all sexually active adults in the United States. With either type of herpes simplex, you can spread lesions by touching an unaffected part of the body after toughing a herpes lesion.
Herpes is the scientific name used for eight related A viruses of humans. Herpes simplex is related to the viruses that cause infectious mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr Virus), chicken pox and shingles (varicella zoster virus).