You are here

Herpes simplex virus 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2), are two members of the herpes virus family, Herpesviridae, that infect humans. Both HSV-1 (which produces most cold sores) and HSV-2 (which produces most genital herpes) are ubiquitous and contagious. 

People get genital herpes by having sex with someone who has the disease. “Having sex” means anal, vaginal, or oral sex. HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be found in and released from the sores that the viruses cause. The viruses can also be released from skin that does not appear to have a sore. Generally, a person can only get HSV-2 infection during sexual contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection. Transmission can occur from an infected partner who does not have a visible sore and may not know that he or she is infected.

HSV-1 can cause sores in the genital area and infections of the mouth and lips, so-called “fever blisters.” HSV-1 infection of the genitals is caused by mouth to genital or genital to genital contact with a person who has HSV-1 infection.

Symptoms of herpes simplex virus infection include watery blisters in the skin or mucous membranes of the mouth, lips or genitals. Sometimes, the viruses cause very mild or atypical symptoms during outbreaks. 

There is no treatment that can cure herpes. Antiviral medications can, however, prevent or shorten outbreaks during the period of time the person takes the medication.  In addition, daily suppressive therapy (i.e., daily use of antiviral medication) for herpes can reduce the likelihood of transmission to partners. Research to develop vaccines against herpes is advanced, though no viable vaccine candidates for the infection has yet emerged.

HSV research at CERID is focused on vaccine development. 

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention