Herpes simplex viruses are extremely widespread. But, quite counterintuitively, they are also widely stigmatized in spite of the fact that most people are positive for HSV-1, the main cause of oral herpes. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over one in six people from 14 to 49 have genital herpes, which is primarily caused by HSV-2 infection. These viruses are worth talking about, and that means parsing the difference between them.
Chances are good that you know someone or are someone who deals with herpes, whether it’s present in the form of cold sores on the face or lesions around the genital region. Location of an outbreak serves as the most common difference between infection with HSV-1 and infection with HSV-2, but beyond that, many people are unclear on what sets them apart. We spoke with experts about what you need to know about symptoms, transmission, and treatment of these distinct and yet closely related infections.
Where are the two infections located within the body?
The main differentiator of the first two herpes simplex viruses is their location or where they appear, both inside and outside of the body. With HSV-`1, or oral herpes, those who experience symptoms will get what is commonly known as a cold sore or a fever blister, which occurs on or around the lips. HSV-2, on the other hand, lives as similar-looking sores or blisters in the genital region: on the vulva or penis or around the anus. (It’s worth noting the HSV-1 can also lead to genital herpes via oral sex.)