Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should never rely upon this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
There are eight primary herpes viruses that affect humans (1), including:
- Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1—This virus most commonly causes oral herpes, but sometimes causes genital herpes. HSV-1 is extremely common, affecting about half of the U.S. population.
- Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2—This virus most commonly causes genital herpes, but sometimes causes oral herpes.
- Varicella-Zoster Virus (aka Human Herpesvirus 3)—This is the virus responsible for chickenpox and shingles.
- Epstein-Barr Virus (aka Human Herpesvirus 4)—This is one of the viruses that causes mono.
- Cytomegalovirus (aka Human Herpesvirus 5)—This is the other virus that causes mono.
- Human Herpesvirus 6—This virus causes gastrointestinal distress and fever in children.
- Human Herpesvirus 7—This causes fever and rash in children.
- Kaposi’s Sarcoma Virus (aka Human Herpesvirus 8)—This causes a type of cancer that only occurs in severely immunocompromised individuals.
When people think of herpes, they’re most commonly referring to oral or genital herpes, caused by Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1) and Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2), which are two of the most common viruses in the United States. A whopping 47.8% of the U.S. population has HSV-1 and 11.9% of the population has HSV-2 (2). If you’ve been diagnosed with herpes (either genital or oral), you are certainly not alone.
Most people with these viruses never, or rarely, exhibit symptoms. The good news is, if you are infected, this means you may never have any outbreaks from the virus. The bad news? This means you can unknowingly pass the virus to others, who might not be as lucky with symptoms. In rare cases, there can be dangerous complications from the herpes virus (3). virus (3).
The most common symptoms during a flare-up are:
- Cold sores on the lips and around the mouth (in oral herpes)
- Sores on the genitals, buttocks, groin, or thighs (in genital herpes)
This guide will help you understand herpes in greater detail, so you can learn how to protect yourself and those around you.
- Prevalence of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 and Type 2 in Persons Aged 14–49: United States, 2015–2016. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db304.htm. Published February 7, 2018. Accessed March 17, 2019.
- STD Facts – Genital Herpes (Detailed version). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes-detailed.htm. Published January 31, 2017. Accessed March 17, 2019.