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Herpes Simplex Virus

Herpe Simplex is a very common viral infection. The most common type is herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). This is the most common cause of cold sores or fever blisters. Herpes simplex virus type 2(HSV2 causes most cases of genital herpes. These lesions are also commonly found on the buttocks. Herpes simplex viruses are contagious even when you do not see sores. Herpes simplex virus is not curable and lives in the nerve ending, so recurrence is common. Recurring outbreaks tend to be milder than the first outbreak. Sun, stress, fever and surgical procedures can trigger recurrent outbreaks.

Signs and symptoms

Most people infected with the virus never see or feel anything. When signs and symptoms occur, a person may experience tingling, itching or burning, before blisters appear. One or more painful, fluid-filled blisters then appear. Over the course of 7- 10 days the blisters then break, ooze, form a crust and then start to heal. It can take several weeks for complete healing. During the initial outbreak sores appear between 2- 20 days after contact with an infected person

Who gets herpes simplex?

Most people get HSV-1 as an infant or child. The virus is spread by skin-to-skin contact with an adult who carries the virus. The infected adult does not have to have sores to spread the virus. HSV-2 is usually spread through sexual contact. About 20% of sexually active adults in the United States carry HSV-2.


During an outbreak, a dermatologist can often diagnose herpes simplex by looking at the sores. A swab can be taken from a sore and sent to the lab. When sores are not present, blood tests can help find the herpes virus. If you have a recurrent sore in the same area that has burning or tingling before it erupts it is likely herpes simplex.


There is no cure for herpes simplex. Sores often clear without treatment. Prescription treatment can relieve symptoms and shorten outbreaks. They can also be taken daily to prevent outbreaks. Treatment also lessens the chance of spreading the virus to someone else. If you suspect that you have herpes simplex please notify your provider if you are pregnant or if you are having a cosmetic or surgical procedure.