Cold Sores and Herpes: How to avoid infection

cold sores

Cold sores (fever blisters) are small, fluid-filled blisters that usually present on the lips more frequently when distressed or under physiological strain. They usually heal in 2 weeks and may burst and scab.

Cold sores are the hallmark pathology of herpes simplex virus (HSV). Both HSV-1 (herpes labialis) aka oral herpes and HSV-2 (genital herpes) present with cold sores. Numerous other variations of the disease include  herpetic whitlow, herpes gladiatorum, ocular herpes, cerebral herpes infection encephalitis, Mollaret’s meningitis, neonatal herpes, and possibly Bell’s palsy.

Herpes is spread by the exchange of virus-laden fluid from an infected individual, usually through a break in the skin or mucous lining (mouth or genitalia). Saliva, blister fluid, and genital discharges are typical vehicles for transmittance.

Symptoms include:

  • cold sores
  • mouth pain
  • fever
  • sore throat
  • swollen glands

Can you have herpes without cold sores? Of course. Some people don’t present with symptoms. Others typically have outbursts or “episodes.”

Can you have cold sores without some form of the herpes virus? Sure. There are a number of viruses that present similarly, many of which are in the herpesviridae family of viruses.

Is there a cure? No. If you have herpes, you’ll probably have it for the rest of your life. Fortunately, numerous adults live happily with herpes. 58% of the US population has HSV-1 and 16% has HSV-2 (see below).

How can I prevent outbursts of cold sores? Well, avoid physiological stress and other infections. Avoid direct sunlight. Keep your lips moist. Wash your hands often and avoid touching your cold sores. Prescription medication can also be used.

How do I avoid herpes? Avoid exchanging saliva, blood, genital discharges, or objects named fluids come in contact with. Wash your hands frequently and well.

Here are some interesting numbers about sexual transmission.

On an annual basis, without the use of antivirals or condoms, the transmission risk of HSV-2 from infected male to female is approximately 8–11%.This is believed to be due to the increased exposure of mucosal tissue to potential infection sites. Transmission risk from infected female to male is approximately 4–5% annually. Condom use is much more effective at preventing male to female transmission than vice-versa.

In October 2011, it was reported that the anti-HIV drug tenofovir, when used topically in a microbicidal vaginal gel, reduced herpes virus sexual transmission by 51%

In the US, 57.7% of the population is infected with HSV-1 and 16.2% are infected with HSV-2. Among those HSV-2 seropositive, only 18.9% were aware that they were infected. During 2005–2008, the prevalence of HSV-2 was 39.2% in blacks and 20.9% in women.

More info (source)

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