Oral Herpes/ cold sore 

Herpes is a common disease in the United States caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). The CDC estimates that about 776,000 people yearly in the United States get infected. HSV-1 is mainly transmitted by oral-to-oral contact to cause oral herpes (cold sores), but can also cause genital herpes from oral to genital contact. HSV-2 is almost exclusively transmitted sexually, causing infection in the genital or anal area. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 infections are lifelong. Oral HSV-1 infection is typically acquired in childhood, manifests as fever blisters, and are highly contagious. Majority of HSV-1 infections are oral herpes (cold sores).

Signs and Symptoms

Oral herpes infection is mostly asymptomatic. Symptoms of oral herpes include painful ulcers, commonly known as fever blisters or cold sores. They appear on the lips or all around the mouth. Infected persons typically experience tingling, itching or burning around the mouth right before appearance of the cold sores. After initial episode, the blisters can periodically recur with frequency varying from one person to person.

Signs and Symptoms

Oral herpes infections may have mild or no symptom. When symptom occur, one or more blisters, ulcers or open sores appear around the lips. Recurrent symptoms are often less severe and may decrease over time. 

Transmission/ Prevention

Oral herpes caused by HSV-1 and 2 are particularly contagious during an outbreak but can also be transmitted when the cold sores are not visible. Infected people should avoid oral contact, and not share objects that have had contact with their saliva. They should also abstain from any unprotected sexual activity especially while experiencing any of the symptoms or have a fever blister.


Effective medications recommended for treatment of oral herpes are antiviral medications, such as valacyclovir, acyclovir, and famciclovir. These medications can prevent cold sores or shorten outbreaks. Daily suppressive therapy can also reduce the likelihood of transmission to partners.