How Do You Contract Herpes?


Quick Answer

People develop HSV-1, or herpes simplex type 1, most frequently as a child via skin contact with an adult carrying the virus, notes the American Academy of Dermatology. They develop HSV-2, or type 2, through sexual contact. In the United States, one in five sexually active adults is a carrier of HSV-2.

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Full Answer

Adults can spread HSV-1 to others without having any active sores, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The only requirement is contact from the person with the virus to someone else, usually a child, through means that involve touching skin. Sharing a spoon, using the same towel and kissing can all transfer HSV-1 from the adult to the child.

While anyone can catch HSV-2 as a result of sexual contact, there are some risk factors that make contracting the disease more likely, explains the American Academy of Dermatology. These factors include being a woman, having a lot of sexual partners, starting to have sex at a younger age, suffering from another sexually transmitted disease or having a compromised immune system via a medicine regimen or another disease.

People develop herpes sores around the mouth most commonly by kissing or sharing such items as a razor or a stick of lip balm, states the American Academy of Dermatology. Sores develop around the genitals during sexual activity. Once a person has herpes, it never leaves, but after the first round of sores, it moves to the nerve cells, where it always remains. As long as there are no sores, the virus is dormant, but illness, fever and stress can wake it up and cause new sores.

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