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Health - Herpes / Fever Blisters / Cold Sores

Author: Edward L Winston
Added: November 21st, 2009

I created this page because apparently a decent amount of people were finding my web site trying to find information on herpes, namely because I bring it up from time to time. It turns out most Americans (and maybe other non-Americans) know nothing at all about herpes, so I decided to make a page for it.

Table of Contents

  1. Herpes is genetic
  2. Cold sores are different from herpes
  3. Fever blisters are different from herpes
  4. "Regular" herpes and genital herpes are different
  5. One cannot get herpes from oral sex
  6. There is a cure for (genital or oral) herpes
  7. Herpes is caused by Gulf War Syndrome
  8. Herpes and canker sores are the same thing and/or are related
  9. One in X Americans has herpes so it's no big deal
  10. Herpes only affects the mouth and/or sexual organs
  11. One can get herpes from a toilet seat
  12. If I never have signs or symptoms, I don't have herpes
  13. Herpes does not increase the risk of getting other STDs
  14. Genital herpes can make one sterile

Herpes is genetic

Herpes is genetic

This is a general misconception that I've run into, primarily because a lot of people first experience herpes in the form of cold sores at a young age. The assumption by some is that because they first had symptoms of herpes prior to being sexually active or even kissing love interests that it must be genetic. It is not genetic, it is a virus, and if one contracted the virus as a child, it could be from a kiss from a relative or in some cases from sharing a drinking glass[1]. Use a condom for oral, anal, and vaginal sex every time.

Cold sores are different from herpes

Cold sores are different from herpes

Cold sores are caused primarily by Herpes Simples Virus Type 1, but sometimes Type 2. They are herpes[2], it just sounds nicer to call them cold sores rather than herpes. Use a condom for oral, anal, and vaginal sex every time.

Fever blisters are different from herpes

Fever blisters are different from herpes

Fever blisters are the same thing as cold sores. They are herpes[2], it just sounds nicer to call them fever blisters rather than herpes. Use a condom for oral, anal, and vaginal sex every time.

"Regular" herpes and genital herpes are different

Regular, that is, mouth herpes and genital herpes are different.

I see some professional health sites get this one wrong too, especially ones in Oceania. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause mouth and genital herpes, though the majority of mouth-related cases originate from HSV-1 and genital cases from HSV-2, however there is a rise in oral HSV-2 cases[3]. Use a condom for oral, anal, and vaginal sex every time.

One cannot get herpes from oral sex

One cannot get herpes from oral sex

See the above myth as to why one can indeed get herpes from oral sex, and just like above, some sites assume that you cannot. HSV-1 and HSV-2 can infect both the mouth and genitals and can pass from one to another[3]. Use a condom for oral, anal, and vaginal sex every time.

There is a cure for (genital or oral) herpes

There is a cure for either oral or genital herpes

There is currently no cure for herpes, natural or synthetic, anywhere, at all. There are, however, vaccines under development such as Herpavac that help protect to some limited extent, but they are still undergoing trials[4]. Even if a vaccine comes out, if one already has herpes, this will not help them. There are anti-viral medications that can help lower the chance of spreading herpes to others and lower the chance of outbreaks, such as Zovirax, Valtrex, Famvir, and penciclovir. Be sure not to buy these from an overseas pharmacy if you're in the US. Oh and always check with a doctor first. Use a condom for oral, anal, and vaginal sex every time.

Herpes is caused by Gulf War Syndrome

Herpes is caused by Gulf War Syndrome

I talk about this in my Gulf War Syndrome article. In short it's not true and it originates from some guy who admits that "I don't understand all this medical stuff." Clearly.

Herpes and canker sores are the same thing and/or are related

Herpes and canker sores are the same thing and/or are related

Herpes Simplex Virus, as the name implies, is a virus[1] and it is completely unrelated to the aphthous ulcers sometimes called "mouth ulcers", "oral ulcers", and "canker sores"[5][6]. The exact cause of canker sores still remains unknown, but susceptibility to them relies on family history, as well as stress, loss of sleep, weight loss, hormones, and many other things[7].

Canker sores occur inside the mouth, they do not occur on the lips.

One in X Americans has herpes so it's no big deal

One in X Americans has herpes so it's no big deal

I've heard even doctors say this, which is really surprising due to the range of problems that can arise from herpes infections. Herpes infections can increase one's chance of being infected with other STDs, especially HIV. Those with a predisposition to bipolar disorder and Alzheimer's have an increased in chance of having these disorders when infected with herpes[8][9].

While extraordinarily rare, systemic infections of HSV-2 can lead to death even in healthy individuals[10]. It can also infect the brain (Herpesviral encephalitis), but this affects roughly 1 in 500,000 people a year[11].

Neonatal herpes simplex infections affect roughly 1 in 3,000 live births in the United States with a fatality rate of about 15.5%[12]

For more information see the section below.

Herpes only affects the mouth and/or sexual organs

Herpes only affects the mouth and/or sexual organs

This is true, most of the time, but there are cases as noted above in the "it's no big deal" section where that's not the case. In addition to that there is:

  • Eczema herpeticum, where areas of damaged skin, either by dermatitis, burns, or eczema can be infected[13]
  • Herpetic sycosis, where the hair follicle is infected[2]
  • Herpesviral meningitis, which creates the recurrent viral meningitis known as Mollaret's miningitis[14][15]
  • Herpetic keratoconjunctivitis, which creates "herpes infections of the eye" (that you hear in all those commercials)[2]
  • Herpetic whitlow, which creates lesions on the fingers[16][17]

One can also spread it herpes from one part of the body to another, such as during masturbation. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly with soap and hot water if you come in contact with an infected area at all. Use a condom for oral, anal, and vaginal sex every time.

One can get herpes from a toilet seat

One can get herpes from a toilet seat, swimming pool, etc

The herpes simplex virus has a very hard time living outside of the human body and typically (but not always) needs skin-to-skin contact to spread. Typically in cases where it spread without skin-to-skin contact is via sharing drinks. There's never been a known case (that I could find) where a person has caught herpes from a toilet seat. Just be sure you don't sit on a dirty toilet seat and you'll be fine[18]. Use a condom for oral, anal, and vaginal sex every time.

If I never have signs or symptoms, I don't have herpes

If I never have signs or symptoms, I don't have herpes

Herpes is often misidentified as razor burn, zipper burns, bug bites, pimples, bug bites, and yeast infections. However in about about 50% of cases of genital herpes, the person spread it without any signs or symptoms and 38% of those people didn't know they had it, primarily dues to misidentification, or never showing signs or symptoms[18]. If you have something suspicious going on, go down to your local clinic and get checked out. Of course, use a condom for oral, anal, and vaginal sex every time.

Herpes does not increase the risk of getting other STDs

Herpes does not increase the risk of getting other STDs

I see some professional health sites get this one wrong too. While generically speaking, herpes doesn't increase one's chances of getting the flu (for example), it can increase one's chances of getting other STDs, especially especially HIV. Having a herpes outbreak if you already have an immune problem, such as the result of chemotherapy or AIDS, it could cause potentially far more problems. Use a condom for oral, anal, and vaginal sex every time.

Genital herpes can make one sterile

Genital herpes can make one sterile

It can't, but other diseases like chlamydia can. Use a condom for oral, anal, and vaginal sex every time.