Common Symptoms of Herpes

HSV-1 or herpes simplex type 1 is the most common type of infection which one can get as a child or an infant. An infected adult can spread the virus by skin-to-skin contact. Sores do not have to be present in an adult to transmit the virus. Sharing a towel, a kiss or eating using the same utensil from an infected adult can pass the infection to a child.

Sexual contact is the way a person gets infected with herpes simplex type 2 or HSV-2. In the United States, about 20% of sexually active people are carriers of HSV-2. There are certain characteristics in people that make them likely candidates for HSV-2 infection:

  • Immune system is weak due to medications or another health condition
  • Female
  • Had or have another sexually transmitted disease
  • Multiple sex partners
  • Started sexual relations at a young age

Close contact with an infected person can spread the herpes simplex virus. Touching a herpes sore can also infect you with the herpes simplex virus. Yet, most people get infected from a person infected with herpes simplex even when he or she does not have sores. This type of infection is called ‘asymptomatic viral shedding’.

A Herpes simplex type 1 or HSV-1 infected person can pass the infection to you through:

  • Sharing objects such as a razor, eating utensils or lip balm
  • Kissing
  • Touching the skin such as a pinch

Genital herpes can be passed when there is contact with HSV-1 or HSV-2. The HSV-2 infected person can pass the infection during sex. If a person has a cold sore and engages in oral sex, this can transmit HSV-1 to the genital area which could cause the genitals to develop herpes sores.

An infected mother can easily pass the herpes virus to her newborn during birth. The baby will have serious health problems when born to a mother who has experienced genital herpes for the first time.

The virus will never leave the body of a person once he or she becomes infected. The virus transfers from the skin cells to the nerve cells after the first outbreak episode. Once the virus has entered the nerve cells, it will stay there in the entire lifetime of the infected person. However, it will only be sleeping or lie dormant till a situation could trigger a reaction to activate it.

Here are some of the things that can activate the virus:

  • Surgery
  • Stress
  • Exposure to the sun
  • Illness
  • Menstrual periods
  • Fever

The worst outbreak for herpes simplex is the primary or initial stage after infection. Yet, some infected people may only have mild symptoms that are barely noticeable. However, if the first outbreak gave mild symptoms, the next recurrence may often be severe which could be mistaken as the first outbreak by infected people.

The first year of infection may have several recurrences after the first outbreak. After a time, the outbreaks decrease in frequency and show milder symptoms. The reason for this is the antibodies that the immune system has made to fight the virus.