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What is Herpes Type 1?

By Emma Lloyd
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Herpes type 1 is the strain of herpes simplex virus that is usually responsible for the development of cold sores. In contrast, herpes type 2 is the type which normally causes genital herpes symptoms. This is not always the case, however, and herpes type 1 can sometimes cause genital herpes sores, depending on the method of transmission. Type 1 herpes can also cause infection in areas other than the mouth or genitals, but this is extremely rare.

Herpes is characterized by several things. First, herpes infection cannot be cured. When a person is infected with the herpes virus, it is there to stay, because after the infection period the virus infects the nervous system and enters a period of latency. This means the virus continues to replicate in low numbers without causing symptoms. When the virus is latent, it is not infectious and cannot be transmitted to other people.

Another characteristic of herpes type 1 and type 2 is that most people have an asymptomatic infection punctuated by periods in which symptoms develop. Symptoms include the development of sores in either the oral or genital area, with the appearance of the sores usually preceded by a tingling or burning sensation in the affected area. The virus is infectious once symptoms begin to appear.

Most oral cases of herpes, known by most people as cold sores or fever blisters, are caused by the herpes virus. In the US, just under 58% of people are infected with the oral herpes virus, but only around one third ever experience symptoms. It is rare for type 2 to cause oral herpes infection, and people who experience an initial instance of such an infection rarely have a recurrent episode.

While Herpes type 1 most often causes the development of oral symptoms, and occasionally genital symptoms, infectious outbreaks can occur in other parts of the body. The herpes virus can cause infection in the eye, which is potentially serious and can lead to blindness. Even more rarely the infection can spread to the brain, causing encephalitis.

Herpes transmission usually occurs via mouth-to-mouth, mouth-to-genital, or genital-to-genital contact. In the majority of cases, this contact occurs when the person with herpes does not know they have the virus, or when they do know but are not aware they are in an infectious stage. Another important point is that type 1 herpes is the most easily transmitted form of the virus. This is because its preferred site of infection is the oral region, and the type of contact which can transmit the virus is a common form of social greeting.

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Discussion Comments

By anon341508 — On Jul 12, 2013

Wow, people. Type 1 is *not* an STD; it is a genetic virus. I've had it since I was a child. My mom has it and passed it on to my sisters and me. You have to carry the virus in order to develop the blisters.

My dad does not carry the virus so he has never "caught it" from my mom because that's not possible if you don't carry the virus.

By anon335575 — On May 21, 2013

Today my doctor called me and told me I was herpes type 1 positive. I immediately started to cry. This was honestly the worst news of my life and I hate that I have to live with this forever.

My first outbreak wasn't too severe but I'm just scared it's going to move to parts of my body where people can see it. (I have it on my genitals.) I'm in high school and I don't want people to know. It's so embarrassing and I feel so gross and dirty and I honestly don't think anyone will ever be able to love me now because they are just going to think the worst of me. I hate this.

By anon332592 — On Apr 30, 2013

I have type 1 and am devastated. There's nothing fun about it. I've had a few outbreaks -- not extreme, but it bothers me most just knowing I have something.

By anon311826 — On Jan 04, 2013

I would like to add that if you have a child who wrestles, or plays rugby or another close contact sport, this is something to have to know about. It is not as rare as the article implies in these sports.

The strain of HSV-1 responsible is called herpes gladiatorum. My high school wrestler brought it home from a tournament as a lovely souvenir to go with his medal.

By anon291671 — On Sep 15, 2012

I got a cold sore on my nose. I don't even know how I contracted it, but having it on the side of your nose is super embarrassing. It itches, burns and is super evident because its on my freaking nose. Sometimes, I really wonder why me? What did I do to deserve this? With Valtrex it calms down the virus but it takes a few days before the sore heals completely.

By anon270247 — On May 21, 2012

So people can be infected just by touching somebody with the virus?

By anon257895 — On Mar 29, 2012

I have herpes type 1 and I've known I had this for almost a year now, but I've never had an outbreak and never had a cold sore.

I've been with my boyfriend for almost two months and I'm scared to tell him. I'm scared he won't understand and plus his mom would probably make us break up. Help!

By anon257766 — On Mar 28, 2012

I have been diagnosed with herpes type 1 on my genital area. Is there a chance I could develop cold sores as well? I have never had a cold sore before.

By anon207327 — On Aug 19, 2011

Type 1 cannot become type 2. Don't get that confused. If your partner has type 1 and you have oral sex, you can get genital breakouts, but it's still going to be type 1.

By anon207156 — On Aug 18, 2011

I've just read some of the comments above, and I got stressed just because some of you guys are stressing so much. Do not be so terrified. Just breathe.

Okay this week my OB told me that my herpes type 1 test came back positive. When she saw that I am about to faint, she quickly explained to me what it is. It's cold sores. I mean why don't they just call it "cold sores", right? I mean herpes sounds so scary.

Anyway, I told her that I don't even have cold sores like ever, and she said that I probably got it as a child, which is very common, and now my body is immune to it. So yes, it is herpes virus, and it is incurable, but it doesn't mean you are dirty. You could have gotten it from kiss, from sharing food, etc. And my OB said it's so common, that they don't even test people for it in most cases. So just relax and don't feel bad about yourself.

By anon162042 — On Mar 22, 2011

I was just told by my OBGYN that I was positive for Herpes Type 1. I'm terrified. My boyfriend does not have it, as far as I know. He's amazing though. He doesn't worry that I have type 1. He'd stay with me till the end of time.

My question is though, since it was detected in my blood that I have antibodies that have fought it off before, will I ever have cold sores that appear?

By wiserlove526 — On Feb 08, 2011

When I was home this past month from college I had a really bad, what I thought was a yeast infection. I went to my gyno and she gave me the appropriate RX and it cleared it right up. She also took the liberty of taking a culture just to be safe.

She called me about a week later and told me that the results of the culture came back herpetic. She then went on to explain to me the differences between type 1 and type 2 HSV, which didn't really make any sense because I was having a minor nervous breakdown. She said that it would be decided if I had type 2 herpes is if I had another breakout within the next week of that convo.

I never did get another breakout and I am in a committed relationship. When I told my BF he went out and got tested and told me that his test came back negative. does this mean that I have contracted this from some previous partner? or does this mean that I have always had HSV-1? Please help me.

By anon144759 — On Jan 20, 2011

About three days ago I broke out in a rash (small bumps) over my whole body. I went to the doctors and twi doctors looked at it and didn't know what it was as they hadn't seen anything like it before.

I went for blood tests the next day and it came back that I have herpes type 1. I don't really know what it means as I was too shocked to ask my doctor!

By anon140270 — On Jan 07, 2011

I am a 22 year old female and I have just found out today that I am herpes type 1 positive. I have contracted it through oral sex with a guy I've known for a while now. I was just wondering how I have just contracted this now as I've been seeing him for a while now but only just started with the lesions this week after seeing him on the weekend?

I also wondered can I now pass on herpes type 1 through sexual intercourse? Even if i use a condom? Will i start getting cold sores around my mouth now too? Can i also get herpes type 2 now? I have so many questions.

By anon131149 — On Dec 01, 2010

i have herpes type 1. my first outbreak was really bad. i was so sick i could not eat or drink anything. i thought i had a bad case of strep throat, but three days after that i noticed three whit bumps on my private area.

i went to my obgyn to find out a week later i had contracted the herpes 1 virus. i was so angry and sad and felt dirty, but i healed with no treatment and I haven't had an outbreak for four months now. you can begin to live with it and accept it because i have.

i caught it from oral sex with a guy who did not have a cold sore present at all, but because one was forming the virus was on his face. be careful about your sex life and what you do.

By anon128500 — On Nov 19, 2010

I have type 1 and had it since I was a child. Actually, I don't ever remember not having cold sores! I understand that type 1 can be given to others and become type 2 through oral sex.

My question is - if I have type 1, Can I also get type 2 from someone else? That is, can I have both viruses in my system - type 1 and type 2?

If not and I have sex with someone who has type 2, will I get type 1 around the genitals? That is, will I get cold sores (I get now) and genital herpes?

By anon123542 — On Nov 02, 2010

I just found out I have herpes type 1. I'm very scared. Never thought this would happen to me. Can this lead to a more serious STD?

By anon117281 — On Oct 10, 2010

I'm 16 & I'm herpes type 1 positive.

By anon116722 — On Oct 07, 2010

I'm fourteen and I got a cold sore, if that means I have herpes type 1, should I tell my boyfriend? And are there any ways to get rid of them or at least make them less visible?

By anon95528 — On Jul 12, 2010

My friend has it. Could i get it in any way?

By calabama71 — On Jul 11, 2010

@cmsmith10: I work at health department as a nurse and I wanted to add a couple of things about the herpes virus. The first outbreak is normally the worse. On average, the first outbreak usually lasts about two weeks in men and three weeks in women. Some other signs and symptoms of herpes can be headaches, lower back pain, fever, and swollen lymph glands in the groin area.

By dill1971 — On Jul 11, 2010

@cmsmith10: Yes, you can go to your local health department and ask for STD testing. However, you shouldn’t be ashamed to speak to your OB/GYN about it. I can assure you, they are used to it.

You should be tested as soon as possible. You may not display signs or symptoms immediately if you have contracted the herpes virus. Symptoms can be delayed anywhere from 2 to 20 days after exposure

By cmsmith10 — On Jul 11, 2010

Is herpes something that I can be tested for at a health department? I don't think that I have it but someone told me that my ex-boyfriend has it. I really don't want to go my regular doctor.

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