How Can Herpes Be Contracted?

How Can Herpes Be Contracted?
How Can Herpes Be Contracted? (Image: Herpes Simplex Virus)

About Herpes Simplex Viruses

Herpes simplex viruses are widely spread throughout the human population. Between 50% to 80% of adults have been exposed to a herpes simplex virus by age 30. Up to 80% of patients with an active infection may be asymptomatic, but herpes simplex viruses can produce a variety of symptoms. Fever, weight loss, body aches, swollen lymph nodes and blisters or lesions are all common symptoms.


Herpes simplex viruses are contracted either through saliva or sexual secretions, and the virus enters the body either through mucosal surfaces or through small cracks or cuts in the skin. The virus is rendered inactive if these bodily fluids dry on a surface as opposed to entering the body. Herpes viruses are capable of invading and reproducing in the nervous system, and can remain dormant before being reactivated by stress, trauma, or another infection. Therefore, it is possible for the same herpes virus to cause multiple active infections in one patient, long after initial exposure.


Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1), is transmitted via saliva, and is often seen in childhood. There are three different types of HSV-1 infections that primarily produce lesions on the gums, pharynx and tonsils, and the lips, respectively. Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) is transmitted via sexual contact. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause genital herpes, however antibodies produced by a prior HSV-1 infection that affected the mouth will protect against HSV-1 genital herpes. Those with HSV-2 genital herpes are more likely to experience recurrent outbreaks.

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