How Is Herpes Spread?



Herpes is a very contagious and incurable disease that results in red, painful pus-filled blisters. There are two types of the disease. Herpes type 1 usually causes cold sores around the mouth. Herpes type 2 mostly causes genital sores. Both types can be easily spread by direct contact when an infected person has an open sore. But herpes can also spread when there's no sign of infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many people don’t know they have herpes because there are frequently no symptoms.

How It Spreads

A person who knows he has herpes should disclose this information to family and friends. Because of differences in immune systems, not everyone who is exposed to the herpes virus contracts the disease. When herpes blisters break and ooze pus, the virus is the most contagious. Kissing and touching someone with cold sores will spread the disease. Also if a person has a cold sore and performs oral sex, this could give his partner genital herpes. Sharing personal items, such as towels, razors, lipstick or cigarettes, with infected people increases the chances of getting cold sores. Some people drink out of the same cup, bottle or container that an infected person uses, and this may also spread the virus. It's also possible to contract herpes by using the same eating utensils. Genital herpes is spread through unprotected sexual contact. According to the CDC, millions of people have had genital HSV infection.

Other Ways to Spread Herpes

Cleanliness helps to reduce the spread of herpes. Washing your hands frequently is important to reduce the chances of infection. The CDC states that the “virus dies quickly outside of the body,” but it can still be spread through contact. Not washing your hands thoroughly after exposure or possible exposure to the virus can spread herpes. Lack of cleanliness may spread herpes from one location to another part of the body. This is usually how people get herpes on fingers, in their eyes and on other areas. Herpes can also be contracted at birth. The (see Resources) states, “A mother can pass the virus onto her baby during pregnancy or at birth.”

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