There are two types of herpes infections, oral herpes, and genital herpes; both are contagious. The most insidious fact about herpes is that it can be an invisible virus; it is possible for a person to have and to spread either type of herpes virus and not even know that he or she has herpes.
The virus that infects a person with oral herpes is named herpes simplex type 1. The virus that infects a person with genital herpes is named herpes simplex type 2. Both types of herpes are spread by direct contact with an infected area or by contact with body fluid from that area.
Oral Herpes and It’s Symptoms
Oral herpes symptoms include blisters or cold sores on the lips and in the mouth that can develop into painful ulcers. If the gums are infected they will become red and puffy. Oral herpes may also cause a fever, aching muscles and swollen glands in the neck. An initial outbreak may last from two to three weeks.
Oral herpes is very common among children. Children share each other’s straws and eating utensils and generally have a lot of physical contact with one another playing sports and just generally roughhousing. Children are also subject to being kissed by visiting close friends and relatives who are completely unaware that they have oral herpes.
Genital Herpes and It’s Symptoms
Genital herpes symptoms include blisters and pain in the genital areas. Blisters may appear on the penis, scrotum, vagina, in the cervix or on the thighs and buttocks. Initial symptoms include an itch or pain in an infected area, fever, headache, swollen glands in the groin, a painful or burning sensation during urination and possibly a thick, clear fluid discharge from the penis or vagina. The blisters may become painful sores. An initial episode of genital herpes may last from one to three weeks.
It is possible to prevent a herpes infection by avoiding direct contact with blisters, sores or ulcers that appear on someone’s mouth or genitals. Keeping in mind that herpes can be an invisible virus, it is a good idea to avoid physical or intimate contact with anyone you suspect may carry either virus.
Teach your children that putting something in their mouth that has been in someone else’s mouth is never a good idea. They should also be warned that when someone has a cut or sore they should be very careful to avoid touching it because of the germs that they might catch.
Adults and teenagers who are sexually active should never have unprotected sex with someone who they even suspect may be infected by genital herpes. The use of a condom will provide some measure of protection but not complete protection. The only complete protection is abstinence.
A pregnant woman who has ever had an outbreak of genital herpes should inform her obstetrician well before her due date, so the obstetrician can, if necessary, discuss and plan for a non-vaginal delivery.