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Who is Affected by Cold Sores?

The virus that causes cold sores is common. Most people have been infected with this virus (herpes simplex virus, or HSV) by the time they reach adulthood.

Although most people have been exposed to HSV, only about 20% to 40% develop recurring cold sores.1 After a person becomes infected, the virus remains inactive in the body until it is triggered by something such as sunlight exposure or stress. When active, the virus results in a cold sore outbreak.

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Citations

  1. Marques AR, Straus SE (2008). Herpes simplex. In K Wolff et al., eds., Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine, 7th ed., vol. 2, pp. 1873-1885. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology
Last Revised March 11, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 11, 2010
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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