About Herpes Simplex

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Herpes simplex is a virus that can cause different types of infections in different age groups. In early childhood, it commonly causes blister-like sores in the mouth and around the lips and on tissues that are in contact with the mouth, such as a sucked thumb or finger. Genital herpes is the most common manifestation of primary herpes infection in adolescents and adults. They can cause lesions of the male or female genital organs.

Males and females of all ages are at risk

Symptoms include fever; irritability; tender, swollen lymph nodes; and painful, small, fluid-filled blisters in the mouth and/or on the gums and lips, commonly referred to as “cold sores”. Blisters weep clear fluid and are slow to crust over. Recurrent genital herpes manifests as lesions on male or female genitals and can spread to the thighs or back.

Symptoms appear between two days and two weeks after infection. However, once infection occurs, ongoing reoccurring flares of herpes can persist for as long as a person is infected.

Herpes simplex is spread by direct contact through kissing, contact with open sores, and contact with saliva.

During the first infection, people can spread the disease for at least a week and occasionally for several weeks after signs or symptoms appear. After that first infection, the virus may become active from time to time, producing sores. People with recurrent infections can spread the disease for three or four days after sores appear. Sometimes the disease can be spread when infected people have no signs or symptoms.

Lab tests can test for the virus. If you have a sore that is not improving, consult with a health professional.

There are medications that can be prescribed for the treatment of herpes; consult with a health-care professional for the recommended treatment. There is no cure for herpes infection.

No. The infection can reappear at various times in a person’s life.

Children and others do not have to excluded from the group setting unless they have mouth sores and blisters and do not have control of drooling or if they unable to participate in daily activities.

To prevent herpes from spreading:

  • Exercise careful and frequent handwashing
  • Avoid kissing or nuzzling children when open oral sores are present
  • Do not share food or drinks
  • Do not touch sores
  • Avoid sharing eating utensils, straws or toehr objects that may come into contact with a sore
  • Appropriate use of condoms may reduce the risk of genital herpes transmission

Additional information is available at www.ndhealth.gov/disease or by calling the North Dakota Department of Health at 800.472.2180.


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