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Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), Orofacial

Orofacial herpes simplex virus is the medical name for herpes simplex infection of the mouth and face, also known as cold sores or fever blisters. These are common, contagious sores that usually occur on the inner and outer lips but can also be spread to the fingers and other body parts. There are 2 major strains of herpes simplex virus (HSV): herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). In general, cold sores and fever blisters are caused by HSV-1, and genital herpes is caused by HSV-2. HSV-1 is not a sexually transmitted disease, though HSV-2 is. There is no cure for either strain of the virus, and once a person is infected, he/she is contagious for life.Fever blisters and cold sores look like small open sores, usually appearing on the corners of the mouth or inside the lips. They are often painful when the sores are open, and before they appear, some people experience a tingling sensation that indicates that the cold sore is on its way. Once a person has a cold sore at one location, he/she is more likely to get another in the same location at another time. Cold sores and fever blisters can be spread by kissing or sharing intimate objects such as toothbrushes, lip balms, utensils, or towels.Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are very contagious. However, only about 20% of people exposed to either virus will experience the associated sores. This means that the majority of people carrying the virus do not know it. For this reason, it is important to protect yourself by knowing your sexual partners and by avoiding contact with others' intimate items. There is no cure for either strain of HSV. People who struggle with frequent outbreaks of sores often learn specific triggers that bring the sores on and can take medicines or use treatments to help lessen the attacks.

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