According to figures from the WHO, an estimated 3.7 billion people under age 50 are infected with this virus. While this is not a serious condition, there are some things to know about it.
- Oral herpes is different than genital herpes
There are two types of herpes simplex virus: type 1, which is transmitted by mouth-to-mouth contact and causes oral herpes, or “cold sores” as they are commonly referred to; and type 2, which is sexually transmitted and causes genital herpes. According to the WHO, approximately 417 million people between ages 15 and 49 have herpes type 2.
- Symptoms are not always present
Many people infected with the type one virus to not know it because they do not experience any symptoms. The most common signs, however, are small sores that form on the lips or the mouth area; and after an initial outbreak, they may reappear.
- While medication can help the symptoms, it does not cure the infection
Antiviral drugs, which are generally topical, are efficient in treating the intensity and frequency of herpes. These medications do not cure the infection, however, which remains throughout a lifetime. Normally, these sores disappear on their own after a few days.
- The virus can be transmitted without symptoms
While it is most contagious during an outbreak, the virus can also be transmitted when sores are not present. When symptoms are present, however, it is very important to avoid oral contact with people that are infected and not use objects that have been exposed to the saliva of others.
- Some factors that can influence repeat episodes
It is unpredictable to determine when herpes will reappear, and this can also vary from person to person. Some conditions do contribute to repeat outbreaks, however: prolonged exposure to the sun, fever, stress, acute illness, and the menstrual cycle, among others.