Herpes 1 vs. Herpes 2: What is a cold sore anyway?

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Difference between Herpes 1 and Herpes 2

Herpes is a common viral disease affecting children, teenagers and adults alike. There hasn't been a cure developed yet so the virus remains in the body after the initial infection. Active periods alternate with latent ones.

One out of four women is infected with a type of herpes, while one out of five men is infected. In recent years, an increase has been observed related to infections suffered by young people.

Genital herpes cases also increased by comparison over recent years. This is a consequence of unprotected sex as well as oral sex. Many campaigns around the world have been organized to draw attention to this subject.


Herpes 1 is a type of viral disease caused by the herpes simplex virus affecting the face and the mouth, but it can also affect the genitals.

Herpes 2 is a type of viral disease caused by the herpes simplex virus affecting the genitals, but it can also affect the face and the mouth.

Disease Progress

In the case of herpes 1, the virus infects the trigeminal ganglion which is a collection of nerve cells located near the ear. From there it spreads to the mouth and face. In most cases, there are no specific symptoms showing so that one can identify the infection. The virus can be transmitted at birth or can be acquired in later stages of development. The outbreaks of the herpes 1 disease occur more frequently in the first years. The virus is latent so infections can take place at any time. The signs on the mouth and face are blisters which will disappear after a short time.

In the case of herpes 2, the virus infects the sacral ganglion at the base of the spine from where it spreads in the genital area. Most people are unaware they have genital herpes as there are sometimes no specific symptoms. Herpes 2 outbreaks are more frequent than herpes 1. Depending upon the number of years the person has carried the virus, the immune response and the viral type the physical manifestation can vary. Herpes 1 can cause also genital herpes, but its rate of occurrence is lower.


Herpes 1 and herpes 2 can be transmitted easily during outbreaks. If a person already has a type of herpes, the risk of contracting another is lower. For instance, a person infected with genital herpes type 1 can be protected from acquiring the genital herpes type 2. But if the same person has an oral herpes type 1, the chances of contracting genital herpes type 2 are higher. Previous site specific infection prevents the second type from developing.

Similarities and Differences

  • Herpes 1 is a viral disease primarily affecting the face and mouth, but it can affect genitals as well. Herpes 2 is a viral disease affecting the genitals, but it can have effect on the face and mouth too.
  • There are sometimes no symptoms of the disease. Outbreaks occur more frequently in the case of herpes 2 than in the case of herpes 1. Outbreaks consist of blisters which open up causing mild to excruciating pain for about a week.
  • Herpes 1 and 2 can be easily transmitted during outbreaks.
  • Herpes cannot be cured and the virus may remain dormant in the nerves for shorter or longer periods of time. 
  • Herpes outbreaks are thought to occur more often when the body is lacking in sleep, is too stressed, or there are other stresses on the immune system. 
  • Common herpes medications include Herpaflor, Famvir, Acyclovir, Dynamiclear, Valtrex and Zoviraz. 


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