Herpes: You have it. Seriously.

October 24, 2008

Herpes is actually very widespread, and chances are you have had some form of it… and so has everyone around you.”

A while ago, I read an article written in my college newspaper that explained how many people were contracting oral herpes via smoking hookah. This is entirely possible if disposable tips are used and not shared by smokers. A question was brought up about whether or not the herpes virus that causes cold sores could also give you genital herpes.

Herpes is actually very widespread, and chances are you have had some form of it and so has everyone around you. Now, that’s not to say that everyone has genital ulcers. Herpes has a variety of different forms. The form which most commonly causes cold sores is HSV-1. The most common form which causes genital herpes is HSV-2. Yet, here’s the answer to the previous question: HSV-1 can also cause genital herpes. So a person with cold sores can give another person genital herpes (most likely through oral sex). Another myth is that a person only is contagious if they are having an outbreak of sores at the time. In fact, herpes is always being shed, whether you are having an outbreak or not. The difference is typically in the amount of virus, though it varies per person and per simplex.

Herpes Simplex Virus-1 causes cold sores

And have you ever heard of “mono?” Known as the “kissing disease,” infectious mononucleosis is usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, which is another type of herpes. This disease infects your white blood cells and is spread through contact with infected saliva. It can cause severe sore throat, exhaustion, spleen swelling… and yet it can also have no symptoms. Then, for the rest of your life, you retain the virus and shed it, thus passing it on to other people.

And I’m sure you’ve heard of chicken pox. Did you know it is also a form of herpes? It is shed in droplets from an infected persons nose or throat, or from direct contact with the skin lesions. After contracting it once, most people will develop lifelong immunity to the virus, though the virus remains latently in the body. On rare occasions, it reoccurs in the form of shingles.

You may have thought herpes had nothing to do with you, but herpes can… surprise you.