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Genital Herpes - Cause

Genital herpes can be caused by either the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 or HSV-2 can cause sores on the lips (cold sores) and sores on the genitals. HSV-1 more often causes cold sores. HSV-2 more often causes genital sores.

How herpes is spread

You get infected when the virus enters your body through a break in the skin or through moist areas (mucous membranes) such as the mouth, anus, and vagina.

Even very small breaks in the skin allow the virus to infect the body. So herpes can be spread to or from the genitals, anus, or mouth during sexual activities or through any direct contact with herpes sores.

You are most likely to spread herpes when you have a herpes sore or blister. But many people have time periods (a week before and a week after an outbreak) when they can still spread the virus even though they don't have symptoms.

And some people spread the infection because they don't realize that they have a herpes sore. Or they may have different symptoms, such as painful urination, that they don't realize are part of an outbreak.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: August 14, 2013
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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